Court and support Black women candidates

Glynda C. Carr and Kimberly Peeler-Allen OW Contributors | 5/10/2018, midnight

The irrelevant scrutiny experienced by Abrams is hardly isolated. Black women candidates and elected officials face a litany of race- and gender-coded criticism about perceived shortcomings that are never mentioned in examining the qualifications of other candidates.

Too often, Black women seeking leadership are labeled with false narratives that paint them as angry instead of impassioned, financially irresponsible instead of willing to stretch their resources to help others, or young and inexperienced instead of ambitious and trailblazing. Recent examples of this are plentiful.

When St. Louis, Missouri, Treasurer Tishuara Jones lost her 2017 bid for mayor by just 888 votes against an establishment candidate with much deeper pockets, the city paper’s editorial board wrote that “a dose of humility” might have made voters more supportive of Jones’ candidacy. And when Lauren Underwood announced her candidacy for the Illinois 14th District U.S. House seat, many in the Democratic power structure were quick to write her off as non viable even though she grew up in the district and previously served as a senior advisor to Department of Health and Human under President Barack Obama. Despite this criticism and a corresponding lack of Democratic establishment support, in March, Underwood took 57 percent of the Democratic Primary vote to beat out her six opponents-all men.

In November, Underwood, Abrams and hundreds of other Black women running for office across the country will face off against their opponents for local, state and national offices. Many of these women exemplify the kind of promising, proven leadership that progressives say they want. But if we refuse to challenge and correct damaging, false narratives about Black women’s leadership abilities-and records-we will ultimately deprive our towns, cities, states and country of the elected officials who are most connected, committed and able to address the inequities and divisions chipping away at our democracy.

There’s a lot on the line in 2018. If creating a fair, equitable and tolerant country is truly our goal, then we must make an urgent stand and put our resources behind candidates who embody these principals. That means not only courting Black women’s votes, but also supporting them as candidates who eager and ready to provide the kind of strong, effective leadership that can help turn our country around.

Glynda Carr and Kimberly Peeler-Allen are co-founders of Higher Heights for America is a national organization building the collective political power and leadership of Black women from the voting booth to elected office. For additional information visit: http://www.higherheightsforamerica.org.