Culture and Politics, Presidential Debates, Presidential Elections

The Fourth 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate—Black Women, and Victims of Police Brutality, Were Ignored Again.

AP Photo/John Minchillo

By Politico Magazine, October 16, 2019

Michelle Bernard is a political analyst, lawyer, author and president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy.

Rather than who lost Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, one couldn’t help but think about who and what was lost. Black women and any substantive discussion of the hundreds of black women nationwide who have been, and continue to be, victims of police brutality were painfully absent from any substantive discussion.

Black women like 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson of Fort Worth, Texas, who, while babysitting her nephew, was shot to death in her own home on Saturday by a white police officer. Black women like Korryn Gaines, 23, who in 2016 was shot to death in her home near Baltimore after Facebook and Instagram deactivated her accounts at the request of the police department whose officers she was filming trying to serve her with a warrant related to a traffic violation. And black women like Sandra Bland, 28, who in 2015 was found hanged in a jail cell in Waller, Texas, three days after being arrested during a dispute over a minor traffic violation.

Castro raised the shooting death of Jefferson in the context of gun reform, and Harris touched on the numbers of black men who have died as a result of gun violence. However, coming on the heels of the shooting death of Jefferson just four days ago, the issue of police violence against black women and girls should have been a major issue in Tuesday’s debate, not just as a brief mention in a larger discussion about gun violence.

In an era when black women are arguably the most important voting bloc in the nation, it seems foolhardy that the candidates didn’t find an opportunity to discuss the issue in depth. If the Democrats are to win this election, it will not be by flipping Trump voters; it will be because they gave their own side reasons to leave home or work, go to the polls, possibly fight off attempts to suppress their votes, stand in long lines and vote in droves. And in the 2020 primaries in the South, a Democratic victory cannot be had without the votes of black women.

Published in Politico Magazine, October 16, 2019.

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