Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards had a message for white women over the weekend: step up.
“All across the country, the Women’s March inspired doctors and teachers and mothers to become activists and organizers and, yes, candidates for office,” Richards said during Sunday’s #PowerToThePolls rally in Las Vegas. “And from Virginia to Alabama and to last week in Wisconsin, women have beaten the odds to elect our own to office. That’s right women of color, transgender women, rural and urban women.
“And these victories were led and made possible by women of color,” she said.
“So white women, listen up. We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to do better. It is not up to women of color to save this country from itself. That’s on all of us. That’s on all of us.”
Saturday marked the second annual Women’s March, and the first day of this year’s installment fell hours after both political parties allowed the government to shut down. Demonstrations continued throughout the weekend. Sunday’s event in Las Vegas drew thousands of activists.
March organizers said they designated Las Vegas as the site of the main event because of its status as a key political swing state, as well as to honor the victims of the mass shooting that killed 58 people and left more than 850 injured in October.
Over the past 15 months Black and white women have demonstrated sharply different political actions. According to CNN’s exit polls, the majority of white women 52 percent voted for Donald Trump, compared to just 4 percent of Black women. And 63 percent of white women voted for Roy Moore (an accused sexual predator who pursued sexual relationships with teenagers while he was in his 30s), whereas only 2 percent of women of color voted the same.
Black women came out in droves to vote for Alabama’s Democratic candidate for Senate, Doug Jones, whose victory shocked the nation because he is the first Democrat in a quarter of a century to win a Senate seat in Alabama.
People wait to hear speakers during the Women’s March rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 21, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus
According to CNN, 30 percent of the electorate was Black, which is a higher share than in the 2008 and 2012 elections, when former President Barack Obama was a candidate. It is also greater than their 26 percent share of the population. Turnout was very high in heavily Black counties.
One pundit urged women to put aside their political beliefs and vote for the social evolution of their gender. As Doreen St. Flix wrote in The New Yorker, “The recent expression of awe for the black woman voter is particularly troubling, because it feels like a kind of disclosure: you’d have to be truly isolated from the day-to-day realities of black existence to be shaken by the racial and gendered dimension of Jones’s win.”
But women of color cannot push for change alone. In the presidential election, Black and Latino women collectively made up just 13 percent of all the voters; white women consisted of 37 percent. Actionable change means white women must not remain passive on the sidelines.
Sara Rosenstock of Los Angeles dances to music during the Women’s March rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 21, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus
“The good news is when we are in full on sisterhood, women are the most powerful, political force in America,” Richards said.
With primary season underway, there are a number of women seeking political office this year. African American candidates such as Stacey Abrams (D-Ga) and Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) hope to expand this minority group’s influence on the national stage. If Abrams wins, she would be the nation’s first African American woman to be elected to the post of governor.
As the past 12 months has galvanized those on the left into resisting President Donald Trump, the Democrats go into the midterms with momentum and anger on their side. Leading the charge, they hope to see a diverse group of women voters and candidates.