Black voters have been denigrated, harassed, and disenfranchised by GOP partisans during this election season. But we are undeterred and voting in significant numbers to propel Hillary Clinton to victory.
When the First Lady uttered that now famous phrase, “when they go low, we go high,” it was not some empty campaign slogan. It came from her core.
At the time, I wrote about how my Harvard Law School classmate Michelle Obama so perfectly articulated “why America is the greatest nation on earth, full of promise and hope, in stark contrast to Donald’s dystopian distortion.” But her words cut deeper than that. They reflected the depth of our shared experience as Black women, the true grit of our parents and ancestors in the face of unfathomable struggles, and their unwavering refusal to be bowed or deterred by the worst of America.
I remember the First Lady’s dedication in protesting South African apartheid and other injustices while we were students at Harvard. So I immediately thought of her and her words at the DNC Convention when I read “An Elderly Black Woman Voted in Texas Today” at Daily Kos:
The first person to vote in my precinct’s polling place was an elderly African American woman who had been standing in line on her cane for at least an hour… We black women do not take our votes lightly.
Most people assume that my home state of Texas is too red for the liberal-leaning votes of its Black minority to make a difference. Additionally, there is the specter of aggressive voter suppression efforts in Texas and other states that are still giving rise to court challenges on the eve of the election. And we cannot forget the Trump campaign’s illegal tactics to intimidate Black voters and other Democrats.
2016 has been a banner year for “going low” by the GOP at the expense of Black voters.
But we know better. Like the author of the Daily Kos piece, I was not surprised by the diligence of this elderly Black woman in Texas. This is all I knew growing up in Dallas. Starting at a young age, my friends and I were instructed to hand out campaign flyers, put up lawn signs, and attend rallies with our parents. We stood in voting booths with them and watched them pull the levers. My mother even sent me to my predominantly white, conservative elementary school with a large McGovern button pinned on my shirt collar every day.
Our community knows the value of showing up and refusing to give up. People like this elderly voter and my mother elected the first Black congresswoman from the Deep South, Barbara Jordan of Texas. They obliterated Jim Crow. They made the improbable election of America’s first Black president a reality. And despite misleading headlines that suggest we are not turning out to the polls, the Black vote is surging.
An older black woman voting is not an anomaly. Living in places like Texas, or Mississippi or North Carolina doesn’t dissuade us. We know that the stakes are too high, and we don’t believe that the price paid for our right to vote was in vain.
Let the GOP go low. Black citizens will heed the First Lady’s call, as we always have done. In large numbers on November 8, we will follow the lead of this elderly woman in Texas down the high road toward electing the nation’s first woman president.