Writing for Salon, Rutgers professor Brittney Cooper makes an interesting argument about President Obama: he’s forgotten about Black women.
This week, news broke that the president planned to sign an executive order outlawing discrimination against LGBTQ individuals for federal contractors, and a previous executive order has given marginal deportation relief to “Dreamers”—undocumented youngsters who were brought to the USA before they turned 16. Couple those moves with the president’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative aimed and helping boys of color, and many Black women are wondering if we’ve been left out in the cold.
Black women voted in droves to elect President Obama, and Cooper argues that he’s failed to hold up his end of the bargain.
Black women, Obama’s single largest voting demographic, have been the subject of no executive orders, no White House initiatives and no pieces of progressive legislation. Ninety-six percent of black women voters voted for Obama compared to 87 percent of black men. Seventy-six percent of Latinas voted for the president compared to 65 percent of Latino men.
Though black and other women of color who are a part of the LGBTQ community will benefit from this latest executive order, no initiative has explicitly addressed the structural issues of racism, classism, poor education, heavy policing and sexual and domestic violence that disproportionately affect black and Latina women.
As a black woman who voted twice for this president, despite some misgivings, I find myself wondering how we will fit into the legacy of progressive policy initiatives that the president is trying to craft as part of his exit strategy.
This is unacceptable.
While I appreciate the carrots that the president continues to throw out to his liberal base, it is clear that black women on the whole are being overlooked and actively dismissed by this administration. I say this, not in an attempt to set racial concerns at odds with LGBTQ issues. LGBTQ people are black and brown, too. But robust attention to discrimination against queer-identified people does not constitute a racial justice program.
While Cooper points out the ways in which the president has addressed other constituencies—Black men, the LGBTQ community, immigrants—she stops short of offering policy suggestions that could specifically target Black women.
Many of the issues affecting Black women affect our community (and our country) as a whole—education, healthcare, safe communities, racism—and the president has tried to address some of these challenges through education reform, implementing the Affordable Care Act, and lobbying for equal pay. While none of his policies have specifically named Black women as the intended targets, if successful, they could affect change in the lives of millions of African American women and girls.
Critics like Cooper and others are right to hold the president’s feet to the fire to insure the remainder of his White House tenure yields positive and lasting results for Black women and African Americans as a whole.
But has President Obama forgotten about Black women? Sound-off!