Black Votes Matter!

Initially, African American women were part of the Suffrage Movement. When African American men gained the right to vote before European American women, it created a divide that was rather apparent.  The 15th Amendment granted African American men the right to vote and was added to the U.S. Constitution in 1890, 30 years before women gained the right to vote with the 19th Amendment in 1920. At one point we saw European American Women in the Suffrage Movement work beside African American women, all to ensure that their voices (women) were heard in the political realm. If our vote didn’t matter, we wouldn’t still see political entities working hard to ensure that our access to the polls is limited.  Laws have been passed that don’t allow you to give people water as they stand in lines for hours waiting to cast their vote. Early voting sites in predominantly minority areas have been discontinued, and mail-in ballots are being questioned as legitimate. 

It is believed that in 1851 at a Women’s Rights Convention that Sojourner Truth delivered the following speech: “Aint I A Woman?”

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say. [1]

My interpretation of Sojourner Truth speech is about intersectionality and the reality that African American women experience the world differently than European Women. I believe she knew that if the social construct of race was to become an issue for the Women’s Suffrage Movement that we (African American women) would be discarded like yesterday’s news. With the passage of the 15th Amendment, Sojourner words came to pass as we saw European Women speak harshly about African American men getting the right to vote before them. 

It’s not the first nor the last time we (African American) women have been sold out by European women when it comes to rights for them or rights for all women.  The first women’s movement was about gaining the right to vote, and we saw how that worked out when Jim Crow set in the south and forbid women and men of color from voting. Not many southern European Americans protested the racist laws that were put in place to try and keep us in a place many viewed as subservient and ignorant.  It was thought that we didn’t deserve the right to vote so polling taxes were created as well as literary test. Currently in many states if you become convicted of a felony, your voting rights are stripped from you.  When we consider the over policing of minority communities it is no wonder that 1 out of 3 African American men will be under the control of the Criminal Justice System within their lifetime. With those convictions and incarcerations voting rights are taken and, in many states, not given back even when people have paid their debt to society.

Even after Donald Trump made a statement that was widely televised about grabbing women by their private parts, he still got 52% of European women to vote for him. Not only did he say negative things about women, but he spoke poorly of Hispanics, immigrants, African Americans, and many others that did not fit into the paradigm of White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP).  European women once again, just like in the early 1900s chose race (although a social construct and not biological real) over sex. 

We must continue to vote in masses to drive out the divisiveness of the political rhetoric we so often hear that pits one group against another. If our voice and vote didn’t matter, we wouldn’t see politicians making their regular stops at predominantly African American churches during the election cycle, telling us all the great things they are going to do to create an equitable society. Our ancestors died for our right to vote, and we must use our vote to make positive changes in the trajectory of our Country.  Local elections are just as important if not more so than national elections.  Black Lives Matter just like Black votes matter!  We must do our part to ensure we are electing people who actually want an equitable society where everyone can prosper.

By Dr. Tammy Hodo


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