This past Tuesday, November 8, marked election day for the United States. It is our day to exercise our right to vote and have our voices heard on our country’s future. It is a privilege that should not be taken lightly, as there are many in the world who do not have such a right. For women, especially women of color, this was true in the United States.
Even at the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement in the late 1800’s, black women were advocating for their right to vote. From Sojourner Truth to women’s clubs, they were discussing how to equalize their rights in this country.
When the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, it legally enfranchised all women, white and black. However, within a decade, state laws and vigilante practices effectively disenfranchised most black women in the South. It would take another major movement for voting rights – the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s – before black women in the South would be effectively enfranchised.
The truth is that women of color carry a lot of weight at the polls. We are an important on election day. According to an article from the Center for American Progress:
Amid this ongoing conversation about how best to ensure equal voting access, there is growing evidence that one particular segment of the population—women of color—is poised to play a more decisive role in future elections. An examination of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources reveals that women of color, especially African American women, are becoming a larger proportion of the electorate. Women of color’s growing influence becomes clear when comparing recent voting and registration numbers with those from the 1960s, when the Voting Rights Act and other key legislation increased ballot box access for African Americans and other people of color.
Not only at the polls are we becoming stronger. In this year’s election, women of color made history. Although it may seem small, it does not mean that it is not significant. The number of women in congress quadrupled on Tuesday from 1 to 4 (NY Times)! And, Minnesota elected the first Somali-American legislator (Star Tribune).
So, don’t forget women of color. You are strong and you are important. And you are making a difference every day.