We are in dire times in this country. Just watch the news, log onto social media, or read the newspaper and it’s clear that America has a ton of urgent work to do to protect its people, especially those who have been pushed to the margins of our society. We are losing this fight for justice, and it seems the disconnect between what many thought were America’s shared values and reality is growing more and more each day.
Across the country, elections are happening. Voters are voting, and there has been no more worthy and dependable voting bloc that shows up in every election than Black women. But the truth is no candidate is safe — leaders of both major parties have long taken for granted the power and proof of Black women’s votes and voices. Sadly, neither has truly supported the needs of Black women who are being crushed under the compounding oppression of simply existing as Black women in America.
We always hear about listening to Black women and it’s become a trendy thing to say, but without action, it’s meaningless to the countless Black women whose lives are on the line. A recent nonpartisan national poll of over 700 Black women, by brilliant corners Research & Strategies and The Highland Project, shows that Black women continue to have significant concerns about a number of issues beyond just the economy, a familiar political talking point from elected leaders. While lowering inflation and the cost of goods is of concern, police reform, voting rights, health care, women’s reproductive rights, education and debt all register among top issues.
Simply put, Black women do not live single-issue lives, and it is unfair and unjust to expect them to separate the structural barriers they face — instead, elected leaders and policymakers should meet Black women where they are, be unafraid to show up authentically and consistently in communities and have candid conversations, and begin to actually address and dismantle all of the myriad issues creating massive oppression.
In fact, in just over a year, Black women are not only feeling left out, but left behind, continuously feeling and painfully pleading that the country is moving in the wrong direction.
We’ve had horrific mass shootings targeted toward communities of color. Black women overwhelmingly oppose the Supreme Court overturning women’s reproductive rights and plan to advocate for themselves, have remained on the frontlines for voting rights, are deeply concerned about young people and their education with bans on teaching our real history, and have become less motivated to support leaders who don’t talk explicitly about the solutions we need to eradicate racism and discrimination.
Black women activists are literally sacrificing their bodies in protest for a better future. Now, we need committed allies, people in power, elected and appointed leaders, and policymakers from Congress to city councils to do something because Black women cannot fight alone. Civic engagement requires participation from everyone — and if there were ever a time to show up, it’s now.
If those in power want to move the country toward a future we all deserve, then they must invest sustainably and collectively in Black women. They must support and center Black women’s visions and leadership. Black women are worthy of support all the time, not just when it’s expected at the ballot box or as a single diversity hire in the boardroom.
The fact of the matter is Black women are not another box to check. Those who refuse to get in the game to sustain Black women’s legacies and lives long-term will jeopardize America’s future.
Gabrielle Wyatt is founder of The Highland Project, an initiative that supports Black women leaders in redefining generational wealth for Black communities.
Cornell Belcher is President of brilliant corners Research & Strategies, a leading strategist in national progressive politics and a political contributor for MSNBC and NBC News.