Fighting for Black Women’s Equality After Election Day

Black women didn’t just get out and vote in November—we got out the vote, in communities across the country, and changed the face of Congress.

The fight for equality didn’t end on election day. Black women and their allies must be voters every day—and hold the lawmakers they elected accountable for their campaign promises. (UNARMED CIVILIAN / Creative Commons)

The 116th Congress is the most diverse Congress in history, with more women and racial and ethnic minorities than ever before; women of color now make up 42 percent of the women serving on Capitol Hill. This happened because women of color, including Black women, voted and organized our families, friends and neighbors to vote. In the process, we broke boundaries and made herstory.

The women we put in Congress are a formidable force, but they are also in the minority. Congress is still an old boys club, with more than 60 percent of the members being older white men. While women make up more than half of the U.S. population, we are less than a quarter of those serving in Congress.

We have a long way to go before we reach parity—and that means that we need to start looking forward and working now to register, educate and activate voters. It also means that all of us who voted in 2018 need to stay engaged in the political process. We made our voices heard on the issues important to us, and now we must also hold those we elected accountable to their promises to us.

Black women have consistently been among the strongest supporters of progressive candidates, and we were a driving and decisive force in highly contested races across the country in the 2018 midterm elections. Despite nationwide voter suppression tactics meant to diminish our electoral power, 92 percent of Black women voters cast their ballots to alter the makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

On Election Day, we proudly donned our “I Voted” stickers. But those stickers give the false impression that our job as voters ends as soon as we cast our vote. In reality, after Election Day, our job begins. It would be more accurate to issue stickers that state, loud and clear, “I Am A Voter!”

The only way to protect and advance our human and civil rights is to a be a voter every day. The only way to ensure that those we elect truly represent us is to practice our rights as voters every week. If we do that, we will remind those in power that they work for us. We will remind those around us that their power is in their vote. We will build upon the momentum from 2018 to stop the New Jim Crow era and take back our rights.

As women, we know that we have to work twice as hard to get half as far as a man. We know that women’s leadership and ambition are often unfairly attacked. We know that sexism and racism can and will undermine us every step of the way toward equality. We are facing tremendous barriers and obstacles in our fight for equality. But we shall overcome—by persisting and by being voters every single day.

I AM A VOTER! How about you?

About

Marcela Howell is the founder and president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda and the former senior policy and communications consultant for Communications Consortium Media Center and vice president of policy, communications and marketing at Advocates for Youth. She has a Masters in Literature from Saint Louis University and a JD from Pepperdine School of Law. You can follow Marcela on Twitter at @BlackWomensRJ.