In April of 2019, Aimee Allison, Founder of #SheThePeople, brought together 8 of the strongest contenders for the Democratic Presidential ticket in 2020, and had them speak to a key constituency in the upcoming election: women of color. The forum was held at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, and featured Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
Since that time, Allison has been finding more ways to center politics in America on women of color. The reasons for focusing on this key demographic relate to issues of both racial and gender justice, as well as underlying economic and environmental issues that disproportionately impact women of color.
“Women of color are three times more likely to vote for Democrats than white men,” said Allison, to the crowd of over 400 people attending the final day of #Womenfunded 2019, the annual convening of the Women’s Funding Network. “In a state like Texas, 1 of 4 voters is a woman of color.”
“A blindness affects American politics,” said Allison. “It’s bigger than party. Everyone is implicated in a system where women of color are not seen or heard.”
“And yet, when you look issues of racial and economic justice, women of color are consistently the party organizers and voters,” Allison added.
Allison credited the organizing and activism of key groups such as the Texas Civil Rights Projects, and others who have registered young voters and galvanized new voters. She also credited DeJuana Thompson in Alabama, who “activated and electrified the black vote, ” said Allison. “For the first time, black women were credited for flipping an entire state in the South.”
Allison made a point of the fact that “Democrats have never appreciated we black women for our role in democracy.” She then took the audience back in time for some historical perspective on the term “women of color” and its importance to the democratic political landscape.
Allison described how, in 1977, women leaders came together for the nation’s “first and only women’s national convention.” A subgroup of the larger group at that time, primarily led by black women, came together at this gathering and “for the first time called themselves ‘women of color.'” said Allison.
Allison sees the value of women of color from diverse backgrounds coming together with a shared political agenda this election cycle. “Asian American women are the fastest growing slice of our electorate and the second most progressive at the polls,” she said, and Latinas are also an important part of the multi-cultural “network of networks.”
“You won’t win a primary and you won’t win the White House without us,” she said. At the #ShethePeople forum in April, Allison said Bernie Sanders was asked about problems like the rise in white supremacy and hate crimes. “Bernie Sanders wasn’t that ready,” with his response. To his response, she added, “Don’t tell us you marched with King. Tell us what’s going on right now. We’ve got problems right now.”
The April 2019 Presidential forum organized by Allison was the inspiration for “more than 11,000 articles,” said Allison, proving that the public is interested in following how women of color are hoping to steer politics this time around.
“The 20% the least likely to be elected is the mostly likely to organize the coalition,” said Allison, speaking of the voting block of women of color. “We’re the most hopeful thing the country has going for it. We need women of color’s leadership in this moment, and we cannot wait.”
“We need to believe in a politics we have not yet seen,” said Allison. This politics, as she outlines it, needs to focus on eight key states where people of color are a large majority of the voters. “To get to 270, we must win big states where we lost last time — Texas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia.”
This strategy does not need to change any hearts and minds in the Trump voter camp, said Allison. “We do not need to convince a single Trump supporter. Studies show racism fuels what they’re doing and we cannot right now focus on changing people’s hearts.”
“Right now, let’s gather our people in 8 states,” said Allison, emphasizing that in those states, gathering black women of color could determine the election’s outcome.
Allison said ShethePeople’s goal is to activate “1 million women of color nationally, but particularly in the 8 states,” and then challenge those women of color “to activate the people around them in their communities. “