For some white women, the 2016 election was a long-overdue wake up call. A majority of white women—53 percent—voted for an openly racist, sexist candidate. After generations of denial, Trump’s support by millions of women was an election-game changer that exposed the deep connection between white womanhood and white supremacy.
Thanks to the bold leadership of women of color before, during and after the original Women’s March in January 2017, many white women have woken up and begun the work of confronting our internalized racism. We have marched, mobilized, and resisted Donald Trump’s administration. We are committed to building a truly intersectional movement for feminist liberation—listening, learning, and standing in solidarity with women of color, immigrant communities, disabled communities, and people of all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
But this work is clearly far from finished. Last year in Alabama, 63 percent of white women cast their ballots for bigotry in support of Roy Moore—a man who was accused of sexual harassment of both teens and young women, and seemed to romanticize slavery. Then this October during Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court, while thousands of women protested, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) chose to align herself with the white, patriarchal power structure in a vocal show of support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The legacy that led to the 53 percent of white women who supported Trump has deep roots in this country’s history, and it will not be quickly or easily undone. It extends from Emmett Till’s accuser, Carolyn Bryant Donham, to the very recent accusations of “Cornerstore Caroline.” Emmett Till was a 14-year-old Black child lynched in 1955 because a white woman falsely accused him of touching her, and 63 years later “Cornerstore Caroline,” a white woman, called the police on an innocent 9-year-old Black child in a Brooklyn shop.
On Tuesday, white women must vote decisively against white supremacy. If we are to be part of a long-term movement for equality and fairness for all, we need to show up at the polls and reject violence and prejudice in all its forms. This has never been more important, coming just after the murder of 13 people by white nationalists in Louisville and Pittsburgh. The midterms offer us the opportunity to support an unprecedented number of visionary female candidates, especially women of color.
There’s little doubt that racist policies and politics have been in play this election cycle. Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, was the first Black woman in the United States to be nominated for governor by a major party. Her opponent, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has mounted what seems to be a concerted attempt to suppress Black voters. His decision to invoke the exact-match law resulted in the suspension of 53,000 voter registration applications for infractions as small as missing hyphens on applications. Black voters make up almost 70 percent of the suspended applications. On Friday, a federal judge ruled against Kemp’s suspensions.
Voter suppression is happening across the country, particularly in Texas. It has roots in the racist disenfranchisement we’ve seen throughout U.S. history, from literacy tests to poll taxes under Jim Crow.
At the polls on Tuesday, white women have a lot of toxic history to answer for. In the 2016 presidential election, in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race in 2017, and throughout U.S. history, we’ve rejected equity in favor of proximity to bigoted power structures. We have the agency to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself this election season.
As we go to the polls, let’s honor activist and scholar Lilla Watson’s words: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Our rights and our futures are all intertwined; our freedoms are bound up together.
Your vote in Tuesday’s midterms isn’t about vindication—it’s about liberation. It’s about showing up to build a feminist movement that honors and centers women of every background, so we can move our country toward a better future.