This upcoming election has a lot at stake. In fact every election does. In this election, women are at the forefront of the discussion. Everything from equal pay, to health care, to a right to choose is up for debate. For me, this race is rather personal because I am a part of two minorities groups that are being held back in one way or another. I am a woman and I happen to be African-American which is an extra strike against me. However, I will not let that discourage me from voting and ensuring that policy makers work with my community to develop solid relationships and alleviate my concerns. That's my responsibility as a registered voter. I just hope that other African-American women will speak up with their ballots in November too. We can't afford to be quiet any more.
African-American Women are making greater strides today than we did in the past. We have advanced in education, have higher incomes, and are running households and corporations all over America. That's pretty impressive. In fact, during the 2008 election Black women voters had the highest turnout among all racial, ethnic and gender groups with 68.8 percent. That proves to me that we can really turn the numbers around in this election. I hope that we all can see the value in making political connections. It can make our lives so much easier.
African-American and young citizen votes in general are critical and any smart candidate knows it. The US Census Bureau reported two million more African-Americans voted in the 2008 elections than in 2004 (gee I wonder why). In 2008 about 49% of voters ages 18 to 24 cast ballots which was up from 47% in 2004. The turnout among young black voters was 55%, eight percentage points higher than four years earlier. Also, turnout among blacks, Hispanics and Asians increased by four percentage points in 2008 from four years earlier, while turnout by white non-Hispanics was down by one percentage point. I am concerned though that young people won't step up their game. That same Census Bureau report also showed that fewer than half of 18-24 year-olds who are registered said they went to the polls, and 42% said they aren’t even registered. By comparison, turnout was 69% among voters ages 45 to 64 and 72% among voters 65 to 74. I don't know what it will take to motivate that group more but it better happen quickly.
If you think there isn't a war on women, think again. We have made some significant advances but I am not fooled into thinking that the playing field is leveled now. Think about it. Before the Affordable Care Act came into play there were insurance companies that actually refused to pay for mammograms. That is absurd. Governor Romney and US Representative Ryan want to limit women's choices right here in the land of the free. Ryan has already shown that he is anti-abortion and he voted to defund Planned Parenthood. He also voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay act. As far as I can see, Gov. Romney has really taken no position on fair pay (which is a cop out. But that's my opinion). These issues will continue to be an obstacle in the effort to keep our country moving forward. I worry that many people don't see that women (not just African-American women) continue to be left behind in America and think that as long as they are healthy and can earn a few pennies, they shouldn't complain. What kind of freedom is that?
For me the race issue simply cannot be ignored. I grew up with a father in my household who was reared in the segregated South during the 1950's and 1960's. So I have heard many stories about how far my people have come in fighting for equality. I fully understand why we should take full advantage of the chance to vote. There is an ugly race war going on within this election. The hints of racism are actually not hints at all but outright attacks ("food stamp president", "doesn't represent our values", etc.) Thank you to Chris Matthews who pointed these out so clearly on a recent episode of Morning Joe. I don't believe that every White person that doesn't vote for Obama is a racist. But there are plenty of racists that will casts their ballot for the Republican party candidate simply to defeat a Black man. If African-American women are as outraged by that sentiment as I am, they will fight fire with fire and cast their votes in support of him.
It's time to say 'no more'. African-American women have power in the boardroom, the classroom, in the church, in the community and at home. I hope we make it a point to use that power to select the best candidate to carry us forward for the next four years.