The intersectionality of voting

The midterm election results are not good enough


Lorie Shaull/Flickr

By Sonali Chigurupati, Collegian Columnist

Women are placing “I voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave. Of course they are. But while she did fight endlessly for the voting rights of women, it must be remembered that she only fought for white women. Anthony made her intentions clear when she stated, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.”

So, I’m left wondering why our history books paint Anthony as an American hero who fought for the rights of all women. What about Black women? Where did they stand in that fight? If Anthony didn’t support the rights of Black men, did she support the rights of Black women? Or did she, like our history books and the pictures we have of the suffrage movement, forget Black women entirely?

My heart sinks for the children in classrooms who are continuously taught that Anthony was a hero who fought for women’s right to vote. She didn’t fight for women to vote so that she could uplift her community, like Black women such as Sojourner Truth and Anna Julia Cooper did. She fought because she was mad that Black men could vote before she could. Put a sticker on Truth’s grave, and then we can talk about honoring authentic American heroes.

Nevertheless, there’s a reason that it isn’t Truth or Cooper that we look to as American heroes who fought for women: Black women are continuously erased from the narrative of women’s rights. They are erased from our textbooks and pictures, which are primary sources, and forgotten entirely.

Anthony fought tirelessly for white women’s right to vote. And now, white women are generally using their right to vote for Donald Trump and, overall, white, male, Republican candidates. Yes, it’s their right to vote for whoever they see fit. But as journalist Michelle Ruiz so eloquently wrote in Vogue, “while there were many thrilling, historic wins for progressive women and women of color in particular in the 2018 midterms, as well as data showing that some white women are peeling away from Trump, white women overall rendered more disappointment.”

Ruiz argued that the governor’s race in Georgia between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp is a real-life example of white women disappointing. If any woman who voted for Kemp didn’t think that Abrams had her best interests at heart, and if she would rather cast her vote for Kemp who bailed on a debate to campaign alongside President Trump, then so be it. It’s her right to vote for who she sees fit.

Nonetheless, Abrams is the intersectional candidate who wanted to uplift her community by starting with the working class. Abrams wanted to build the economy by increasing jobs and she even wanted to decrease income tax. Isn’t that every Republican’s dream? Instead, Ruiz noted that 75 percent of white women voted for Kemp, who was actively participating in voter suppression.

What about citizens of Georgia who were restricted from voting because Kemp strategically declined voter registration from citizens in minority communities which tended to vote blue while he was secretary of state? According to an Associated Press article, “As Election Day approached this year, [Kemp’s restrictions] resulted in 53,000 voters — most of them minorities — with their registrations on hold.” Kemp’s tactics, called “innocent” strategies to prevent voter fraud, made it harder for those who were not going to vote with the Republican party – namely, people in minority communities – to vote in general.

Georgia’s election turnout upset me. If Abrams had won, she would have been the first Black woman to be elected governor, and in Georgia, of all states. On top of that, she only lost by a hair, Kemp with 50.3 percent of the vote and Abrams with 48.8 percent.

Many women, especially women of color, won their elections last week. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest women to be elected to Congress. She is a Democratic socialist whose focus is on healthcare, and her win was a major success for New York’s 14th Congressional District. Furthermore, Ayanna Pressley was voted into Congress for the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District. Minnesota elected Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American woman to Congress.

These women are the essence of intersectionality of voting. They’re standing tall with their fresh, new ideas and their new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. They’re knocking on the door of white men who have always held positions of power in our country and they’re saying, “Set a place at dinner because we’re here now!”

Sonali Chigurupati is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]