At 6:30am on Tuesday morning, I walked the couple of blocks to my Central Harlem polling place where I waited in line sandwiched between two sets of black women, the pair in front speaking English, the pair behind speaking an African dialect. I made note of the elderly black women proudly exiting with their walkers, the black woman who told me good morning! when I gave her my address, the black woman who assured me I’d get my vote in even though she was having trouble finding my name. Up until around 10 or 11pm, I was overly optimistic that Hillary would win, not only because of the proliferation of images of people who just voted that flooded my Facebook feed, but also because of Feminista Jones’s #BlackWomenVote hashtag.
When the election was called, I, like millions of Americans, was inconsolable when I found out that Trump had won. But my anger was exacerbated when I learned that those like Jon Favreau, president Barack Obama’s chief speechwriter from 2005-2013, tweeted that there’s “lots of blame to go around” for this outcome. This is simply not true. People of color, especially black women, are unblemished in this catastrophe, and I’m tired of rhetoric that claims otherwise.
Black women rallied behind Hillary Clinton more than white women did. According to CBS News exit polls, Clinton won black women by a 93% to 4% margin. But Trump defeated Clinton among white women 53% to 43%. So, despite the many high-profile white feminists, such as Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, who made their support known and consistently so, the majority of white women in this country voted for a man who gloats about sexual assault, judges a woman’s value based on her looks, and uses scare tactics to obscure his lack of knowledge on abortion and women’s reproductive rights.
I don’t know if those 53% of white women are Dunham or Schumer fans, or even if they identify as feminists. But what I do know is that they chose their race over their gender on Tuesday. They fooled themselves into believing that their proximity to a white male allows them to partake in as much as power as he. And yes, to a certain extent, they do. They perpetuate white supremacy, but they are not their white male counterparts’ equals—and they will learn this the hard way soon enough.
As for black women, we did our part to try and stop Trump better than the vast majority of this country. Hillary Clinton, whose “superpredator” rhetoric in regards to black youth led to the passing of the 1994 crime bill that trigged massive incarceration rates, was overwhelmingly supported by the very same black women whose loved ones were likely to have been affected by this legislation. That’s not to say that we have not been critical of her legacy, but we still chose her. We chose her over a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan—a man whose rallies often led to racialized violence. It was black women, who mainstream feminism has ignored for decades, who showed up, ready to fight for the rights of all women. That’s not just ironic, that’s extraordinary.
White women and men are to blame for the outcome of this election. They chose to band together, united by their shared racial identity, and the result has instilled fear in the hearts of millions of underrepresented groups. Whiteness won on Tuesday night in part because the majority of white women in this country chose a lesser-qualified white male in order to uphold the status quo. Refusing to spread this truth provides cover for those who proclaim themselves “liberal” and allies, but who secretly stigmatize their neighbors in order to preserve their privilege, their power, and their lifestyles.
And if the rest of us have to inevitably suffer in order to maintain the pre-existing hierarchy, so be it. Now is not the time for collective soul-searching. It’s time for white people to turn to one another and reckon with the racism and sexism they chose to turn a blind eye to for years. That is their moral debt in this country. Black women have and always will be the backbone of this country’s racial and social progress, despite rarely being acknowledged for our efforts. For black women, we do not owe anyone; we are owed. Gratitude and respect, not blame and condemnation, are long overdue.