So what we’re not going to do on Al Gore’s internet is police black people for buying Popeye’s chicken sandwiches and tell us how we need to be voting when we have been showing up for politicians that have treated us like a dirty little secret for the better part of fifty years, in order to protect our interests in a country where the rights and freedoms of black people are constantly under attack.
Now this page is dedicated to voting rights champion Stacey Abrams so let’s make things Georgia-specific. I’ll start with this- long lines are voter suppression. White counties with ruby-red Republican voting blocs like Cherokee and Forsyth had little to no wait time at their precincts in the 2018 elections. Long lines are not a sign of high turnout, it is a sign of incompetence and mismanagement. Georgia has the longest wait time for black voters in the country. Black working class folks had to wait in line for up to four hours across our state and that was no coincidence. Years of systemic neglect of black neighborhoods has fostered an environment where these voters have to wait an obscene amount of time to vote.
Despite these factors, let’s delve into some numbers: In 2012 when President Obama ran for re-election, 66% of eligible black voters came out to vote. Black women had the highest participation levels of any demographic in the country. In fact, black voters were the only part of President Obama’s coalition that had HIGHER turnout in 2012 than in 2008 (!). In Georgia, black turnout is virtually unfazed by the national environment. In 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 black voters made up about 30% of all votes cast in Georgia. Black Georgians show up in every election. In 2018 black women had the second highest turnout in Cobb and Gwinnett counties, two historically Republican counties that Stacey Abrams won. In other metro Atlanta counties like Henry, Clayton, Douglas, Rockdale, and Newton black women had the highest turnout period. 68% of black women in Henry County voted in 2018, the overall turnout for the county was just 59%. Don’t tell me black people don’t vote.
What’s even more amazing is that on paper, black turnout should be much lower than it actually is:
Black Americans are the most financially insecure group in this country. Any political scientist will tell you that working class and poor people seldom vote. If the wealth gap between white and black Americans were erased today, the U.S. economy would grow by $1.5 trillion. We have 1/10 the wealth of White Americans yet consistently turn out to vote at rates equal to them.
College degrees or lack thereof is an indication of a consistent voter. 33% of black adults have at least a 2-year degree in comparison to 47% of whites, but black voting patterns would suggest differently.
While Black voters can decide elections in swing states like Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin, we disproportionately live in states that are rarely contested by both parties. The majority of black voters are either in the Republican Deep South or in safe Democratic states like New York and California. Our turnout rates despite living in states that are rarely contested is a testament to the sacredness of voting in the black community.
Black people are 5x more likely to be incarcerated than whites. A conviction usually strips someone of their right to vote and they are not likely to vote upon completion of their sentence. We still carry more than our weight come election time.
The population of Black Americans is younger than the overall population. The median age for Black Americans is 34, for all Americans 38, and for White Americans 44. Older people are more reliable voters. Despite the age gap we still show up and show out.
Lastly, the marriage gap: Married people are more likely to vote. 56% of white adults are married, compared to 32% of black adults. Black voting patterns are virtually unfazed by this statistic.
The immense barriers devised to keep Black Americans from voting, from long lines, moving polling locations, stricter ID laws, and purging eligible voters would discourage many, but Black voters have continued to fiercely defend the only weapon we have in a system not created for us: our right to vote. Instead of chastising Black people for buying chicken sandwiches, we need to be organizing and working to hold elected officials accountable to erase these horrifying institutionalized gaps between black and white America. I thank leaders like Stacey Abrams for seeing us, recognizing our value, and doing the hard work to engage us early and often. Because of her, the electoral power of black Georgians will no longer be ignored and when we win we will achieve social, economic, and health equity in this state.