52 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump in 2016. It’s clear that many white women place their race above their gender, and they are privileged enough to do that. Two years later, white women have showed very little progress. In fact, they proved once again that they are unreliable voters and highly comfortable in this current state of America. 76 percent of white women voted for Brian Kemp. 51 percent of white women voted for Ron DeSantis. And 56 percent of white women voted for Ted Cruz.
Few were shocked by how Black women voted. 95 percent of black women voted for Beto O’Rourke. 82 percent of Black women voted for Gillum. And 97 percent of black women voted for Abrams. That’s because Black people do what they normally do: show up to the polls, vote responsibly, and encourage their loved ones to do the same. Even my mother woke up early to run to the polls, back pain and all. In an op-ed for Essence, writer and Director of Public Engagement for the Planned Parenthood Action fund, Alencia Johnson explained why Black women vote with such fervor; she wrote, “We know, and have always known, that harmful policies put our bodies and lives on the line. Our vote is not only an act of resistance, but self-preservation.”
Me and my mother read the essay together, and she agreed. “Black women aren’t born with special privileges like white women. So, if our vote fails, what do we have to fall back on? Nothing. That’s why voting is life or death for us. But white women are so caught up in wanting to be the ‘ni–ers of the world’ that they ignore us, the actual ni–ers of the world. Malcolm X said it best, ‘The most unprotected person on Earth is the Black woman.’”
On Election Day, I watched white liberals burden Black women with the task of cleaning up a mess their relatives and friends helped create. I watched white liberals who won’t check their own Republican loved ones try and check Black women who expressed disinterest in voting. I watched white liberals Blame Beyoncé for Beto O’Rourke’s loss in Texas. These are the same people who push Black women back of the movements they began—the #MeToo movement for example. These are the same people cover their ears and speak over black women as they attempt to address their concerns.
Why should Black women clean up the mess 52% white women and 63% white men created? Why should Black women involuntarily become the face of progressivism, only to be forgotten and not credited for helping to create social and political change?
I asked these questions when Meryl Streep suggested that Oprah Winfrey has ‘no choice’ but to run for president in 2020 after she delivered a powerful speech during the Golden Globes. On multiple occasions, Oprah has politely and indirectly declared that she is uninterested in cleaning up white America’s mess. “I don’t want to run,” she said during a speech where she endorsed Stacey Abrams. “I’m not trying to test any waters. Don’t want to go in those waters. I’m here today because of Stacey Abrams.”
Oprah on 2020: "I want to make it very clear to all the press, everybody, I’m not here because I’m making some grandstand because I’m thinking about running myself. I don’t want to run, okay? I’m not trying to test any waters." https://t.co/uzBkvETRYr pic.twitter.com/9Hbooiyj74
— The Hill (@thehill) November 1, 2018
I asked these questions when white liberals continuously pestered Michelle Obama into running in the 2020 elections, where she too politely and very indirectly expressed that she is not interested in cleaning up white America’s mess. During the United State of Women Summit, Mrs. Obama said, ““When I hear people say, ‘You run!’ It’s part of the problem!” she said. “We still didn’t get ‘Yes We Can’ right. It’s not ‘Yes You Can’ it’s ‘Yes We Can.’ Until we get that right, it doesn’t matter who runs. I don’t think I’m any different from Hillary.”
Now, I’m going to ask one more time: Why should Black women clean up messes they didn’t create? There’s no good answer to this question. White liberals need to look within themselves. Just as Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said, “Focus on [your] sisters. Figure out how to win them over.” Clean up your own mess.
Furthermore, the collective liberal white guilt isn’t helping anyone. In fact, it’s self-serving and lazy. When you’re complaining about how your people failed Black women who waited two to three hours in line to vote, mention what you’re going to do to make sure that doesn’t happen. There’s plenty of ways to utilize your white privilege to begin tidying up the mess. Start by asking why there are Black women who had to wait hours on line to vote. Were there defective machines? Could that be a form of voter suppression? Well, there are things you can do about that.
Don’t go around telling your white counterparts to vote like Black women. Only Black women can vote like Black women. They don’t appear at the polls with big smiles to take selfies; they go to the polls like Alencia Johnson said, to “resist” and to “self-preserve.” Convince 52% white women and 60% white men to vote like white people who care about something other than their privilege. That’s how to begin cleaning up your own mess.
However, whatever steps you take, know this: slavery is over, and Black women aren’t here to clean up messes they didn’t create. Don’t set high expectations for Black women only to ignore them after they voted in your favor.