When Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama’s hotly contested Senate special election on Tuesday night, observers on Twitter were quick to point one thing out: Jones’s victory was most likely due to high black turnout, particularly among black women.
Alabama’s Senate race isn’t the first election this year where a strong turnout among black voters, led by black women, helped determine an election. In a performance that closely matched their 2013 behavior in the state, black women in Virginia helped keep the governor’s mansion in Democratic hands, with 91 percent of their vote going to Ralph Northam last month. They also showed the strongest support for the winning Democratic gubernatorial candidate in New Jersey. And while Hillary Clinton did not win the 2016 election, black women overwhelmingly supported her, backing her by a 94-6 margin over Donald Trump and other candidates.
In a state where a disproportionate level of African-Americans face rampant poverty, poor education systems, and unequal access to healthcare, the votes of black women weren’t about some altruistic mission to save America from itself. Their votes were a very real attempt to make a change that would help themselves and their families.
They were also counteracting a candidate who argued that America was last “great” when slavery was in place, responded affirmatively when asked if constitutional amendments after the 10th should be abolished, and was backed by a president who has engaged in vitriolic attacks against prominent black women while pursuing legislation that would harm them. The results outline why they were such a powerful political force that should be focused on beyond election season.
There are heroines poised in your midst,
preparing to proudly persist.
With their power at polls,
they will further their goals
as a force that cannot be dismissed.
Susan Eckenrode, 12/14/17