I need white women to leave me, my body, and my vote alone from now on
I spent two years learning just how proud white women are of who they are.
by JaLoni Amor Owens
The first thing I did on the morning of November 8, 2016 was remind all of my friends back home in Massachusetts to vote, but on the morning of election day of this year, the first thing I did was groan and bury my face in my pillow.
The last thing I did on the evening of November 8, 2016 was listen to my friend tell me how scared she was, how much she started to rethink beginning her transition, and the last thing I did on the evening of election day this year was mute the following words and phrases on Twitter: 2018 Midterms, Beto O’Rourke, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and White Women.
The differences in how I began and ended these two days could be construed as me no longer caring about electoral politics after participating in the first presidential election since the Voting Rights Act was gutted, after I observed the contradiction of an electoral college in an alleged democracy, and after I spent two years learning just how proud white women are of who they are.
Two years ago, the progressive white woman designated to lead my city’s chapter of the Coalition for Social Justice tapped my shoulder and asked, “Can I make the case to you about Bernie Sanders?” When I told her that I was not eligible to vote in the primaries she smiled and said, “That’s okay. You can make the case to your friends for me.”
That same year, white women cast an estimated more than half of the votes that led Donald J. Trump to victory in the Presidential Election. Yet, the first demographic to be accosted for the election results were Black voters. Headline after headline read variations of “4.4 million 2012 Obama voters stayed home in 2016—more than a third of them black”, “Study: Black turnout slumped in 2016” and “Why black voter turnout fell in 2016.”
Rather than fingers being pointed at white women, or even white men, they were pointed at us. Somehow, it was Black folx maintaining white supremacy and the noble white progressives doing everything that they could to dismantle it. Somehow, Black folx cost the United States its first woman president. Somehow, just 14% of the U.S. population, possessed the power to hold the entire nation hostage.
During this year’s midterm elections, a white woman I’d never seen before grabbed me by my shoulder on campus, turned me around to face her, and kept her hands on me as she told me, “You better vote, my sister.” That same day, after declaring that they would #SupportBlackWomen and be apart of the #BlueWave, white women white womaned up electoral races in Texas, Florida, and Georgia.
According to early exit polling from CNN, 60% of white women who participated in the Texas senate race voted for Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz, 51% of white women who participated in the Florida governor race voted for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, and an infuriating 75% of white women who participated in the Georgia governor race voted for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp.
Every election, white women grant themselves access to my body, to my time, and to my vote in the name of progressivism. Every election, white women cast votes that threaten my body, that force me to donate even more of my time to direct action, and that undermine my vote.
And when this article is published, I am sure that white women will engage with it, will thank me for it, and will tell themselves that they are not the white women I am writing about.
They will pull out their canvassing sneakers in 2020 and return to business as usual, but what I do not believe white women are anticipating in 2020 is that voters of color do not intend to waste one more breath or vote on them.
No more co-organizing with white women. No more placing the onus on voters of color while encouraging them to compensate for the votes of white women. No more civic engagement rooted in rage towards white women.
Moving forward, I want us to not only reclaim our votes, but also our bodies, and as we will continue to reclaim our time, we will not allow white women to ask us for a damn thing.
JaLoni Owens is a New York based community organizer and freelance writer as well as a rising senior at Hofstra University. Driven by her passion for social justice and politics, she is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree with Public Policy and Public Service as her primary focus of study and Journalism as her secondary focus of study.