Once again, Black women in America have proven to be both a political force and the moral backbone of America.
On Tuesday, Democrat Doug Jones squared off with Republican former judge Roy Moore in a special election for the senate seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions in Alabama.
The candidates were polar opposites, not only in terms of party, but history. Moore, who had twice been removed from the bench based on conduct, faced allegations of pedophilia and was generally venerated for comments concerning America being at its greatest during slavery. Jones was well known as the prosecutor who brought the murderers of the “four little girls” at the 16th Street Baptist Church to justice years after their crime. Jones garnered the support of many African Americans based on his record of fighting bigotry and racism in Alabama.
Trump and several in the party’s leadership endorsed Moore, despite the allegations of molestation, and encouraged voters to favor party over morality. Black women, however, turned out in record numbers to ensure that Moore would not be elected. In fact, 98 percent of the vote of Black women went to Jones, propelling him to be the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in 25 years. The Internet and media outlets placed Jones’ victory in the hands of the Black female electorate, thanking Black women for preserving the image of America and certainly that of Alabama.
The praise is more so deserved when considering the hurdles erected to prevent Black women from turning out in support of their candidate. In 2011, Alabama passed a strict voter identification law, making voting difficult for many of the poor Black women in rural areas. In fact, about 118,000 registered voters do not have the identification necessary to comply with the voter law.
While the Republican led legislature responsible for the law claimed it necessary to combat fraud, instances of fraud are rare. The discriminatory nature of the law was evident in the language of its sponsors, who were alleged to have referred to Blacks as “aborigines” and “illiterates.” Tuesday’s election also led to several complaints of long lines, limited poll workers, and intimidation at polling stations in Black communities.
Despite these hurdles, Black women turned out in large numbers and overall Black turnout was a record 29 percent.
When Black people turn out to the polls and particularly Black women, Republicans suffer. The media will continue to herald the efforts of Black women, praising them for saving everyone. White Alabama voters, the majority of whom cast their ballots for Moore, do not need saving. Black women can be counted on to vote their socio-economic interests to include rejection of racism and bigotry, the rights of women and young girls, and the overall right to vote. Because the interests of the Black woman reflect the interests of many American citizens, it is time for Black women to take the lead.