Why Kamala Harris Fighting For What Black Women Need Is Important To Me
Choosing a Black woman is an incredible historic step, but it’s not the end of the story.
August 18, 2020 at 6:23 pm
As a 32-year-old Black woman, I’m imagining what life would be like for my 10-year-old goddaughter in North Carolina if she saw someone who looks like us in the White House, leading on an important portfolio of issues and rebuilding our country and our democracy. And now, my goddaughter, myself and other Black girls and women across the country may have that chance if former Vice President Biden and Senator Kamala Harris win the White House. However, representation isn’t enough, Senator Harris must lean in to the issues that matter to Black women and do so unapologetically.
Choosing a Black woman is an incredible historic step, but it’s not the end of the story. We need Senator Harris to push for, and former Vice President Biden to adopt, progressive policies that will make a real difference in the lives of Black families and all families.
Black women voters have consistently been the Democratic party’s strongest voting bloc and are the backbone of the party. But somehow the words Malcolm X said almost 60 years ago are still true today: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” Our votes shouldn’t be taken for granted. Senator Harris must ensure this by not allowing herself to be relegated to a symbol or a figurehead. Too often, women of color get tapped for positions to give the impression of diversity and inclusion. Then their leadership gets undermined or dismissed.
Additionally, Senator Harris should not fall into the trap of trying to be “perfect” like so many women, and specifically Black women, do in order to avoid labels like “angry Black woman.” Ultimately, trying to be perfect is a waste of time, because no matter what she does she will be judged. Instead, we need Senator Harris to keep her focus on fighting for what Black women need, which is ultimately what America needs.
Dismantling systemic racism and white supremacy must be the focus of the Biden-Harris ticket, beginning with three urgent concerns. First, at long last, there is a massive groundswell of support for ending the racial terror and police violence that our community disproportionately suffers. The Biden-Harris proposal to eliminate private prisons is a start on criminal legal reform, but they must go further and commit to moving funding away from abusive police practices and toward health care, education and other public services that could transform our communities.
Many in our community are skeptical of former Vice President Biden because of his sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill and Senator Harris because of her record as a prosecutor. To begin to counter these concerns, Senator Harris needs to be bold at the Democratic convention and call out the injustices that Black women and our families face at the hands of police. If the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor still have not been arrested by the time of her prime time address, Senator Harris should #SayHerName from the podium, demand justice and make the country come face to face with our pain.
Second, we expect Senator Harris to put economic justice for Black women and their families at the forefront. Black women are still making 62 cents for every dollar a white man makes, or almost $1 million dollars over a lifetime. We need Senator Harris to advocate for a full range of solutions, including closing loopholes in the equal pay laws, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and beginning a serious conversation about reparations. Since Senator Harris was raised by a single mother in a lower middle-class neighborhood, she should understand our call for a champion.
Third, we expect Senator Harris to push former Vice President Biden toward universal health insurance. The COVID-19 crisis, where millions of people lost both their jobs and their health insurance, has laid bare the wrongheadedness of linking health care to employer plans. If ever there was a time to make sure every person in America had affordable health insurance, it is during a pandemic. Even outside of COVID, we are seeing failures in the current medical system, where Black women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.
Representation matters, but so do results. Like Black women before me and the Black woman who my goddaughter will grow up to be, I am an organizer who will do everything in my power to protect access to the ballot, fight for the issues that Black women care about and get out the vote. We need Senator Harris to do everything in her power to put our issues at the forefront.
Dawn Boudwin is the Deputy Executive Director of Network Strategy at Alliance for Youth Action. She is also a born and bred Tar Heel and has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Currently, she resides in the Washington, D.C. area with her adorable puppy Serena.