I sat with a black woman in Shelby County, trying to wrap my mind around the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate, Phil Bredesen who just days prior noted that if we were a sitting senator, he would in fact vote for the Trump nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Bret Kavaughn. Accused of attempted rape and known to be an overly zealous drinker, Kavaughn in my neck of the woods was all but ineligible to even be a nominee to the highest court in our democracy. This was well after Dr. Ford testified in the affirmative. I couldn’t even imagine being represented by anyone who wouldn’t find the mere allegations repugnant. But, this black woman, noted for me that Bredesen’s challenger, Marsha Blackburn was much more of a monster and that she wouldn’t be distracted by Bredesen’s comments because in the end she’s going to do “what she has to do.”
And I understood.
Because my mother had struggled tremendously to raise us as children but in the end she “did what she had to do.” And the black women in Alabama who became Roy’s Moore’s most reliable electorate “did what they had to do.” And the 96% of black women who voted in 2016 for anyone but Donald Trump but found Hillary Clinton’s insistent lack of humility around the usage of words like “predator” to describe black men her husband criminalized and institutionalized well into the millions, “did what they had to do.” And even while black women make up a sizeable base for the Democratic Party and only account for 1% of United States senators, and less than 3% of United States representatives, black women consistently “do what they have to do.”
And today is election day. And we will, as black women have always done, do what we have to do.
Black women, in the past, right here and now, everyday in the future, NEVER DISAPPOINT. Never. You will know that we rise, we go to work (the many ways we work), we endure, we come home, and we pull every tool out of our tool box in the name of our absolute own agency. Even when our toolbox has been stolen like the many voter registrations that have been purged from the rolls in Georgia. Even when we will be docked an hour’s pay by relentless bosses who refuse to compromise for employees who live in counties where there isn’t even a single polling location. Even when it rains. Even when we are late picking up our children or other people’s children. Even when the value of voting is theorized and made a conspiracy in our own homes, we do what we have to do. WE VOTE.
We absolutely are Harriet’s daughters.
We believe in our own survival more than anyone’s. We don’t need anyone to tell us what it means to be marginalized, to be embarrassed, to move on in a world that requires us to suffer daily. It does my aunts, my mother, nor I any good to live in the corners of news stories. To wash our anxieties in polls. We don’t get to be wrapped up in in the ideologies. We don’t theorize, we move. We survive by pulling whatever lever of change we can. We do as we are told by our bodies, to always do what we have to do. We do it in pain. In strength. In conviction and lack there of. In our limits. In spite of. On the backs of. In the name of. In the spirit of. With the burden and none of the victory. Through the patronizing and doubt. Through the lack of donations for our own candidacies. We do. We give. We take it to the field, we leave it all there, and we never let the fire replace the duty. We trust. We verify. We dignify. We validate. We do so as the women before us. By grace. And with humility. And gratitude. Loud. And silent. As one. And as many. We vote.
For Stacey. And for Andrew. And for Antonio Delgado in New York. For Mandela in Wisconsin. For Debbie Stabenow in Michigan. For Lucy McBath in Georgia. For Beto in Texas. For Heller in Neveda. For Ayanna. For the glass ceilings and for the positions we’re overqualified for. For every street we’ve canvassed. For every voter we called. For every lit we’ve dropped. For every bottle of water we dropped off at every polling location. For every volunteer. For every lawyer. For every black woman who is too upset to lean in to this election. For every black woman who bought a plane ticket. For every black woman on the road to a field office. For every train ticket. For every black college girl canvassing for the first time. For every dog that chased you. For every piece of data you put into the system. For every brunch. For every voter registration you put in. For every dollar you donated. For every house party. For every moment, every thought, every ounce of your energy you gave to this election. When it hurt. When it left you in astonishment. When they spent too much airtime on winning back white women and losing white working class men. I appreciate you beyond my level of ability to express it.
I thank you. For what you do. For what you’ve always done. For doing what you have to do.
For the pundits who ever doubted us. And the white women who refuse to follow us.
In black women we trust. Our agency has always been stronger than our pride.