The 19th Amendment needs an asterisk: * white women

I didn’t post that tweet to call out Mikie Sherrill; I know she posted her message in good faith. Ditto my friend Loretta Weinberg, who showed a great photo of herself, daughter and granddaughter in matching tees: ‘Of course I’m a strong independent woman, it’s a family tradition.’ Not for a second do I think any of these women are unconscious of inequality. I just hope we don’t always leave it to black women to remind us white ones that they haven’t always moved forward when we do. We don’t teach that in school, so that’s extra reason for us to say it right out loud.

Yesterday was the 98th anniversary of the day the 19th Amendment  was ratified. Lots of social media celebration, photos, memes. In good faith, I think. But that leap forward wasn’t for all of us.

The 19th Amendment needs a (figurative) asterisk. It states that the right of citizens to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” But we don’t always mean it. In my lifetime, there was lynching. There are people now who remember Bloody Sunday; one of them’s in Congress, Rep. John Lewis. He’s 78, but don’t imagine it’s all past. Check this:

In rural Georgia, the board of elections wants to eliminate all but 2 of the county’s polling locations just months before the midterms; closing 7 of 9 places to vote. They say those places aren’t ADA-compliant. But the timing’s pretty suspicious. Why? The county’s majority black (and poor); one of the polls to close serves a community 98% black. And Stacey Abrams is on the ballot. She won a hard Democratic primary and is now her party’s nominee for Governor. And if she wins, she will be (1) first woman elected governor of Georgia (2) first African American elected Georgia Gov (3) and the first black woman to govern any state in the country. 

Who’s her opponent? Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, state’s top election official. White. He says he’s against it, and maybe he is. But history tells us that behind the law a whole lot of shit goes down the people in charge say they have nothing to do with. The stakes are high. There aren’t too many black women in state executive office – if Stacey Abrams makes it, there will be exactly four; Abrams, Jenean Hampton (GOP LG of KY), Denise Nappier (CT state Treasurer, Dem) and our own LG Sheila Oliver, also Dem. That’s it. At Rutgers, CAWP is watching the numbers. You can see why ACLU is challenging in Georgia.

But I digress. It’s good that women own the 19th Amendment. I hope more women (and men) see when our sisters are blocked. And if you add that correction I hope you do that in good faith too (as I hope I did here). Most of us just don’t get these connections spelled out for us in school. It’s not always in the curriculum that our feminist heroes – including New Jersey’s own Alice Paul – left black women behind. Let’s not ever do it ourselves.

Below, Ida B. Wells-Barnett at the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade, organized by Mount Laurel’s Alice Paul, one day before Princeton’s President Woodrow Wilson was to be inaugurated. Journalist and activist Ida B. Wells and other black women were quietly told by Alice Paul that they could only participate in the march if they marched separately and behind white women. Wells, below, ignored that, marching between white women in the Illinois delegation. All 22 founding members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority also marched. 

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