It’s Time to Honor the Political Power of Women of Color Voters
By Anne Price, President
With less than a week until Election Day and early voting eclipsing 2016 numbers, Black, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latinx, and Muslim women will play a crucial role in determining our nation’s future. According to Aimee Allison of She the People, a national network elevating the political voice and power of women of color, “the only path to solutions that heal us as a people is with the enthusiastic support of women of color.”
The electoral power of the 63 million women of color in the United States is a mighty force that should not be overlooked. From 2016 to 2018, the voting share of women of color grew by 37 percent. There are 13.6 million more citizen voting-age (CVA) women of color than there were in 2000, compared to 6 million for their white counterparts, a 59 percent jump. And one out of every four voters in key states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Georgia is a woman of color. Yet, the political power of women of color is both under-researched and underinvested in by philanthropic organizations.
If the 2020 election has become a referendum on the soul of the nation, then women of color are on the frontlines. With distinct intra-racial perspectives, histories, geographies, and lived experiences, women of color are clearly not a monolith, but they are united by a set of overarching values, and they are focused on our nation’s most important issues, such as health care, the economy and jobs, immigration, public safety, and racial justice.
According to the Center for American Progress, African American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) voters are the fastest-growing and perhaps the most diverse racial demographic of women voters. They have roots in dozens of different countries and now hold a large share of the female vote in several states, including California, Nevada, and Hawaii.
Latinx women are the second-largest and second-fastest-growing population of women of color voters, despite widespread voter suppression tactics of restricting polling stations or limiting vote-by-mail. The largest numbers of Latinx women voters live in New Mexico and Texas.
Indigenous women voters are often completely ignored, and policymakers have a longstanding practice of placing barriers on their ability to vote. Yet, voter eligibility among Indigenous women has increased 29 percent since 2000, including growth in New Mexico and Alaska, where their voices are critical.
Black women are an essential and driving force of increasing electoral power among women of color. With 15 million eligible voters, Black women are among the largest and most consistently engaged demographic groups in American politics. Black women voters are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group of women to support a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants and are the strongest supporters of gun violence prevention measures.
The pandemic and what’s being characterized as the nation’s first female recession illustrate why we must honor the political power of women of color. At the end of 2019, women constituted the majority of workers for the first time in a decade, but just last month 865,000 American women, including 300,000 Latinx women, were pushed out of the labor market — four times more than the 216,000 men who also left the job market.
What we are witnessing is the consequence of decades of a two-tier segregated labor market in which women, and women of color specifically, are stifled with low pay, instability, and little to no access to advancement opportunities and employer benefits.
This month Insight co-authored “Public Work Provides Economic Security for Black Families and Communities” with the Center for American Progress and released Mississippi is America: How Racism and Sexism Sustain a Two-Tiered Labor Market in the US and Constrict the Economic Power of Workers in Mississippi and Beyond. Both reports employ the “Black women best” framework coined by Janelle Jones. They spotlight persistent and pervasive racial segregation in the labor market, as well as the resulting wage gaps and overall financial instability of Black women. And, importantly, they elevate how the economic conditions of Black women are strongly tied to the economic well-being of the nation.
Just as the electoral power of women of color will be fundamental to an inclusive democracy and economy, the needs, values, and wisdom of women of color must be front and center in formulating the vision and the policy framework to manifest it. Centering women of color is the only way we will succeed in creating a more equitable future for all communities.