This opinion piece by Daniella Gibbs Léger was originally published in Essence Magazine.
There’s something in the air. Can you feel it? An energy, a nervousness, a “let’s get this thing over with”-ness. We are less than one week out from the presidential election, and I for one cannot wait. In 2004, I spent the last six weeks of the campaign in Ohio and I felt so bad for the good people of that state, who had to endure nonstop campaign ads. Fast-forward to today, and now that Virginia is a true swing state, in D.C. we’re getting bombarded with the same. It’s enough to make me want to record every TV show just so I can skip the commercials.
But the amount of money being spent tells us something. There’s a lot at stake this election—and I know people say that all the time, but it’s really true. Rarely has there been such a stark difference between the two men running for President than there is next week. And for Black women, the stakes are even higher.
We know the stats by now. Poverty rates among Black women are disproportionately high, we tend to rank high among the uninsured, we often are the heads of our households without spousal support, we suffer numerous health ailments at a rate higher than our white counterparts, and economically we were crushed by this recession. How Obama and Romney would address each of these problems is distinctly different, with Obamacare being a big example. Obama passed the law, which helped African-American women get insurance coverage and free preventative care, and Romney wants to repeal it on day one.
In my anecdotal conversations with some of my friends, I get the sense that while there is still strong support for President Obama, there is a little disappointment. There’s a sense that he didn’t do all he could. It’s not that all of these folks are going to run out and support Mitt Romney, but I worry that some of them—and others like them across the country—might not vote or work to get their friends and family out to vote.
I get the sentiment, but my response to those folks is usually something like “You know the President isn’t your boyfriend, right?” They usually laugh, or get annoyed. But think about it for a minute. The way some of the President’s Black critics have acted, you would think he broke up with them out of the blue. I’ve seen disappointment with other politicians, but there is something so…*personal* about the way they react to President Obama.
I’m not trying to diminish anyone’s legitimate gripe. I just ask for people to have some perspective. Like, asking your parishioners to stay home because you happen to disagree with the president’s stance on gay marriage is severely lacking in perspective. Saying you won’t vote for Obama because African-American unemployment is so high—without understanding the historical trends—is lacking perspective.
I get it: Many of us saw in Obama more than just a President. His election, for many, was a cathartic moment. After years of slavery, Jim Crow and oppression, to have this country elect an African-American was a huge symbol. But I think people forgot that electing one Black man to office doesn’t erase the decades of problems these communities had.
Because as much as you love President Obama, people have to realize this election is about more than just him. It’s about the future you see for your kids and their kids. It’s about YOUR future.
No matter whom you end up choosing, the important thing is that you make an informed choice and actually cast a ballot. Too many of our ancestors gave blood, sweat and tears to get African-Americans the vote for any of us to sit at home. President Obama is known to say cheekily, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative.” Wise words as you cast your ballot.
Daniella Gibbs Léger, a former special assistant to President Obama, is the Vice President for American Values and New Communities at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter @dgibber123
To speak with Daniella Gibbs Leger, please contact Laura Pereyra at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202.741.6258.