Why black women are ghosting the Democratic Party

Why black women are ghosting the Democratic Party
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Over the weekend, Democratic leadership from across the country travelled to Chicago for the DNC Summer Meeting, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the historic 1968 convention that changed the game for the Democrats around access, transparency and accountability.

Even as they successfully navigated the most significant rule changes to the delegate process in 30 years, party leaders — Chairman Perez and Vice Chair Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonSpicer: Press have 'a personal animus' against Trump administration Ellison grilled about abuse allegations at Minnesota AG debate Sexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points MORE, among others — will tout black women as “the backbone of the party” with the cameras on. And they will do so with good reason. Black women within the party, however, tell a different story and experience a completely different reality.

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By now, you’ve likely memorized the statistics about black women that are offered up as proof of our political and social contributions — that black women were recently deemed to be obtaining more bachelor degrees than any other group United States and to lead all demographics in voter turnout. And rightfully, they’re lauded for being the the Democratic Party’s most reliable voters since the 1990s. On top of that, with hundreds and hundreds of black women on ballots across the country — winning despite a dearth of support from Democratic party institutions — it is clear that black women are making their move from winning elections for others to winning elections for themselves.

 

In 2017, I ran for chair of the Democratic National Committee. After garnering half a vote and endorsing former Labor Secretary Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, I was appointed to the Transition Advisory Committee along with what the party called a group of leaders, activists, and organizers who represented the Democratic Party’s big tent. Because I care about this party, I said yes.

A few calls, several meetings and a handful of enthusiastic social media posts later, I ghosted the DNC. Why? Because when it comes to black women’s leadership, the Democratic Party may talk a good game, but like many of the men I have dated, they are far from where they claim to be.

It was relatively early in the four-month relationship on this committee when it became clear that its existence was solely busy work while Chairman Perez and Congressman Ellison had already planned how they were going to attempt to maneuver a much-needed overhaul of the DNC’s culture, struggling brand and relationship with disaffected Democratic voters — all of which they did without our input. 

Like many doomed relationships, I ignored early warning signs, spending money to attend meetings that were an in-name-only effort, watching as my male co-chair took credit for my work and being forced to listen to conversations steeped in patriarchy and white male privilege.  

Tasked with co-chairing the “Mobilizing Base Constituencies” sub-committee, I was appalled at how many of my fellow committee members adopted the Republican-driven debate and messaging around “identity politics.” How do you develop a strategy to mobilize the Party’s most loyal communities with a team of people who openly embrace this intentionally polarizing label?

Soon after, I stopped responding to calls, messages, and emails with the stark realization that within a supposedly esteemed group of Democratic leaders, I was now listening to the same argument I’d engaged in for seven years as a progressive political analyst on Fox News.

Despite my ghosting, I don’t believe the relationship between the DNC and black women is beyond repair. There are positives we can build on. A month ago in Atlanta, Chairman Perez was applauded when he apologized to black donors for the party too frequently taking the black community for granted. His pledge to never have it happen again is evidenced by the recent launching of the Seat At The Table tour a series co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus with a goal of restoring trust, strengthening infrastructure and rebuilding relationships.

These efforts aside, however, many black women running for office are still waiting on a call back, a reply to an email or just simple acknowledgment from their local party, the DCCC or the DNC. Which leads many black women like myself still asking what — besides an apology, events and “listening” — is the party tangibly doing to grow Black women’s influence, power and leadership? More specifically, what is the actual investment?

There’s a disconnect between putting people on stage and publicizing them on Instagram, and the institutional support needed to ensure black women leaders are being supported and not marginalized at all levels of the Party.

Meanwhile, organizations like Higher Heights and She the People are doing tangible work to to create long-term strategies, visibility, pipelines and support for women of color, with the belief that their involvement and power is transformative. Since ghosting the DNC, in my own work as Board Chair of  Vote Run Lead, I have personally trained 500 black women to run for office. It’s this kind of on-the-ground, sustained work that engages black women not just as vital voters, but as indispensable and essential leaders.

With time running out before the most important election of our lifetime, the DNC’s unwillingness to promote any black women as spokespeople for the party is the political equivalence of malpractice. Ever-savvy voters, black women are paying closer attention to how the Democratic Party treats black women leaders and candidates. And make no mistake: There is no proposition more dangerous for Democrats in November than a disengaged black female electorate.

Ultimately, black women are leaders. There are real barriers still being put in place by party leaders in D.C. and perhaps even more importantly at the local and state level. As more and more black women candidates win, especially without institutional support, it would be wise to direct some attention to the purging of party leaders who stand in their way, refuse to return their phone calls, and proactively shut them out of leadership opportunities.

The Democratic Party’s responsibility for the treatment and dismissal of black women’s collective power doesn’t just alienate a core base of voters, but thousands of leaders with the vision, direction, and organizing prowess the party desperately needs. Today’s era demands not just voting but leadership from Black women who are seizing the reigns of power, and the DNC must offer that platform for visibility.

Maybe then, they’ll be worth texting back.

Jehmu Greene (@Jehmu) is a progressive political analyst at Fox News as well as board chair at Vote Run Lead.