“If you are a white woman watching this panel, I’m gonna evoke this sign that I saw at the Women’s March right after Trump was elected. There were these white women sitting together and they had a sign that said, ‘If Hillary had won, we’d be at brunch right now.’ That’s the problem. Life was not good for your sisters of color and it wouldn’t have probably been good for your sisters if Hillary had won. The work of the 19th Amendment is to continue to expand democracy for all women. If white women really want to vindicate the 19th Amendment, you should be pushing for reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act as hard as you are pushing for other rights that you are fighting for.”
An unequal democracy
On this Women’s Equality Day, this sentiment is what we must remember as we head into November’s election. Today commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. However, as discussed surrounding the 100th anniversary of the amendment’s ratification on August 18, many women still did not have the right to vote after 1920. For example, Time reports most Black women would wait almost 50 more years to fully exercise the right to vote. According to History.com, Native people didn’t have the right to vote until fighting for it by state, with Utah being the last state to grant the right in 1962.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 progressed democratic rights for all people. However, as alluded to by Jones, the piece of legislation was dismantled by a 2013 decision by the United States Supreme Court. As a result of Shelby County v. Holder, states with a proven history of discrimination can make changes to election laws and policies without having to prove such changes won’t disenfranchise voters. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was reintroduced (originally the Voting Rights Advancement Act) at the end of July in an attempt to reverse the power of the 2013 SCOTUS decision.
For an election already made vulnerable by the ongoing pandemic, trans, Black and Latino people are already particularly affected by strict voter ID laws, registration restrictions, the purging of voter rolls and the ability to vote-by-mail.
Putting privilege to use
On this day, I think of the 47 percent of white women who voted for Donald Trump (No, not 52 percent). I think of the people who voted third party, knowing their candidate would not win, but saw their single vote as symbolic of a greater message. I think of all the write-ins and those who deliberately chose not to vote at all.
Like a lot of America’s guarantees to its citizens, voting is a democratic right that functions as a privilege. The understanding of the terror to come under a second Trump presidency is apolitical. It’s putting that understanding into action that can be hard. This means eradicating the highly-regarded American tradition of individualism. This means voting for someone whose presidency might not result in a direct benefit for you. This means putting the very basic needs of other people, from communities you likely do not interact with, ahead of your wants.
However, in light of what Jones said, a Trump loss would not mean it’s time to kick back at brunch. That is, in fact, only the very first step. The last four years may have been the catalyst for the current waves of movements like Black Lives Matter and Me Too. But the systemic issues around race and gender go all the way back to our country’s foundation. If you have the privilege, I ask you to stay loud.