What you can DO to thank Black Women

Angela Peoples holding sign at the Women’s March (Kevin Banatte)

Black women won Alabama for Doug Jones.

I’m not saying anything new here — this has been reported many times already (and it is only a day after the election). But it is worth repeating, shouting, and tattooing on your forehead. Black women showed up, again, to give a Democrat a win. And we tried to do the same in the 2016 presidential election, only to be foiled by the 53% of white women who cared more about their proximity supremacy to white maleness than electing someone who would actually be a good leader for this country.

So my question is: what are you doing to thank black women? Yes, it’s great to share that graphic that shows that 98% of black women — and 93% of black men — voted for Doug Jones, while only 35% of white women supported him (and 27% percent of white men — really? 65% and 72% of you supported an accused pedophile?). It’s great to make a Facebook status that says “Thank Black Women” or “Listen to Black Women” — but none of that directly affects the lives that black women lead. Those thanks lie in supporting policies that support black women and communities of color in general — even if those policies have no tangible impact on your non-black or non-female life. We all need to hold our elected officials accountable to supporting those policies. Black women’s decision have positively affected all of us. It’s time to step up for them.

So what should you fight for? This list is a great place to start. (ALL of this comes directly from the highly informative and instructive National Domestic Workers Alliance report: The Status of Black Women. Check it out for more ideas and statistics.)

Vote Black Women into Office

In 2014, black women composed 6.4 percent of the United States population, but as of August 2016 held only 3.4 percent of seats in the United States Congress and no seats in the U.S. Senate (this has since changed with the election of Senator Kamala Harris). In state legislatures, black women held just 3.5 percent of seats in 2016. Support black women candidates with money, volunteer time, and VOTES. In Democratic primaries, vote for black women candidates first, even if you find yourself ideologically aligned more closely to another candidate.

Expand Educational Opportunities

To make higher education more accessible to black women, demand your elected officials protect and expand federal aid programs such as Pell Grants. On a state level, restoring and expanding funding of higher education can also prevent further increases in college tuition at public colleges and universities. Additionally, reversing the decline of federal funding for campus child care through the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program will support the large portion of Black women who are student parents. Encourage your local institutions of higher education (and the ones you attended) to develop targeted scholarships and inclusive campus policies that support students with dependent care obligations in order to help them achieve success. If you are a regular donor to your own alma mater, tell them you will redirect your money if they don’t consistently demonstrate commitment to inclusive campus policies. If they can’t demonstrate that commitment, send your money to institutions that reliably do.

Protect and Expand Access to Healthcare

State policies that limit the potential of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to reach low-income and minority populations as intended undermine efforts to improve black women’s health status. Expanding Medicaid, especially in states with relatively large black populations, is one essential step to improving black women’s health and access to health care services. Demand that your states expand eligibility for all Medicaid services to those with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty line if they have not yet done so (31 states had made this change as of July 2016). Demand that your state expand eligibility for Medicaid family planning programs, and purchase healthcare for yourself and your family. One of the ways that the ACA makes it possible for low-income or high-risk populations to benefit from better coverage is by increasing the number of healthy, higher-income individuals who buy in.

Fight for Pay Equity

Black women’s median annual earnings ($34,000 for those who work full-time, year-round) lag behind most women’s and men’s earnings in the United States. Raising the minimum wage can improve black women’s earnings, reduce poverty, and reduce gender and racial earning inequality. Pressure your state and the federal government to raise the minimum wage and eliminate the subminimum wage to lift the earnings of black women, who are disproportionately represented in jobs that pay at or below minimum wage.

Protect and Expand Voting Rights

Strict voter ID laws in multiple states have been found to intentionally discriminate against black and Latinx voters, and have the potential to thwart their votes. States can support black women’s strong voter turnout (which has been higher than all groups of men and non-black women in the last two presidential elections) by removing restrictive voter identification laws that prevent women, especially women of color and low-income women, from voting. Organize against restrictive voter ID laws in your state, and demand your federal level officials fight to strengthen and restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

It is worth highlighting that while many of these issues are impacted by federal level policies, most of them are decided at the state and local level. Add your state level representatives to your call list. Show up at local town halls. That is where the change will happen — that is where the action will make the most difference in the lives of women whose votes have continuously protect people other than just themselves.

I’ve focused here on the political organizing impact you can have, but there are many ways to support and amplify black women in your daily life as well. Hire black women; patronize black-women-owned and led companies, brands and organizations; vocally, visibly, and monetarily support Black Lives Matter, and other organizations supporting black women. Remember — you can always do more.

For more information about our organization, or to make a donation, please visit our website. Pantsuit Nation is proud to be a project of Civic Engagement Fund.