The glaring absence of Black women at the first of two Democratic presidential debates was impossible to ignore, a fact that was substantiated by what seemed like hundreds of tweets that were dominating NewsOne’s Twitter timeline Wednesday night. Not only was the lone Black woman running for president scheduled to take the debate stage in Miami on Thursday night, but there was also a low-key controversy over how NBC did not have a Black woman as one of the five moderators who worked the first debate.
That void was notable for a handful of important reasons, but maybe none as pressing as the across-the-board consensus that Black women have been the backbone of the Democratic Party for so long, especially in recent months. And with more than half of Black voters being women, it would seem like a no-brainer to have the first debate of this presidential election season include at least one Black women in somewhat of a prominent role.
With that said, there were still a handful of moments that were actually 100 percent about Black women whether viewers knew it or not. While nothing makes up for the real thing, those moments — featuring New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Maryland Rep. John Delaney; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke; Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan; and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — made the coveted voting bloc’s presence still felt despite their physical absence from the debate.
Many wondered why Joy-Ann Reid, a Black woman who regularly makes politics the focus of her very popular NBC-owned show, wasn’t part of the lineup of moderators. Others simply took to Twitter to express the missed moment that Democrats were probably kicking themselves over after learning of the backlash on social media, which seemingly offers a more accurate snapshot of how people truly feel instead of relying on polling.
Once that smoke cleared, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro made sure the country knew that many of his proposed presidential platforms were drawn up with Black women in mind, inspired by them, or both. He also made a clear distinction between the terms “reproductive freedom” and “reproductive justice.”
While both terms apply to the larger restrictive abortion laws being enacted across the country, the former has often been used in the context of trans lives as Black trans women, in particular, have been under increasingly violent siege in recent months. The latter is a term that was coined by a group of Black women 25 years ago who “recognized that the women’s rights movement, led by and representing middle class and wealthy white women, could not defend the needs of women of color and other marginalized women and trans* people.”
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker spoke about Black trans lives, too.
The topic of the wage gap came up, as well, which is a nod to the financial divide along racial and gender lines that shows “it takes the typical black woman 19 months to be paid what the average white man takes home in 12 months.”
Candidates also continued to tout their plans for free college, which is part of a larger ambitious strategy by some who hope to eliminate student loan debt as a whole. And since “Black women are earning more college degrees,” it could be argued that these proposals surrounding college and debt would heavily benefit Black women college students and graduates.
But it was Castro again who put things in their proper perspective for Black women when he said the names of Sandra Bland and Pamela Turner as examples of the need for “racial social justice.”
Castro made a concerted effort to keep Black women as part of the debate, which probably explains why the sense was that he came away as the winner Wednesday night.
The second debate features Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Pete Buttigieg, Biden, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, California Sen. Kamala Harris, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Rep. Eric Swalwell and Marianne Williamson. It starts at 9 p.m. EDT and will be televised live on NBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo Thursday night.