In the second of a three-part conversation series, TV One’s “Represent the Vote: Our Voice, Our Future,” hosted by political analyst Karen Finney, examined the intersection and history of Black women in politics.
LaTosha Brown, activist and co-founder of Black Voters Matter, says Black women have always been on the vanguard for democracy in this country.
“We have always been in the trenches, we have always fought for the right to vote,” Brown said. “Whether it was 100 years ago in the women’s suffrage movement or 55 years ago where we were leading voting movements in Alabama. We are talking about millions of Black women; some we know their names, some we don’t.”
Brown adds that figures such as Kamala Harris, who is hyper-visible as a star of the Democratic Party, stand on the shoulders of hundreds of years of work done by Black women who have been invisible and never truly recognized.
Social justice activist and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham agrees with Brown that while it is important to acknowledge Harris out front, the time is now to give just due to Black women for their political influence and power.
“Black women are the heartbeat of so many of the things that matter in this country even when we have not been recognized for it,” Packnett Cunningham said.
“There are so many women behind the scenes working at all levels of government, running at all levels of government to make sure that we are no longer just the backbone, but we are in positions of leadership and we are carrying the needs of our community with us.”
Packnett Cunningham says for so long Black women have taken a back role in society with raising other people’s children, managing other people’s lives that when Black women are assertive about taking up space in leadership positions it is not always received as viable, especially in politics.
“Black women candidates when they put their hats in the ring are already at a disadvantage just because they are Black women,” she said. “When we understand the principle of intersectionality that Kimberle Crenshaw gives us, we understand the unique effect of misogynoir. “We understand the unique ways in which oppression rears its ugly head against us.”
She adds that Black women running for office are already at a disadvantage when it comes to fundraising, staffing, to their vision being believed and to people’s ability to see them and picture them occupying higher office.
“This idea that we’ve never had a Black woman governor … even though Stacy Abrams came close … the fact that that history hasn’t been made in the year of our Lord 2020 says to me again that they love our labor but not our lives,” Packnett Cunningham said.
What are the solutions? Brown believes Black women must run in spite of the hurdles and demand more while doing it.
“In many ways, we’ve never had the luxury and the privilege to be able to come to the process with the tools that other people have,” Brown said. “We have to tap into our networks and use our creativity, our innovation and our relationship capital.
“In addition, how we’ve always shown up for other people, we’ve got to put pressure on them to show up for us,” Brown said. “We need deeper investment. If Black women are the base of the Democratic Party, then Black women should be getting the lion’s share of the resources and investments in our candidates.”