Preliminary exit polls show that black voters in Alabama were vital to Senator-elect Doug Jones's victory over his Republican challenger Roy Moore on Tuesday night—but alongside a flood of praise and gratitude for the people of color who "saved" the U.S. Senate seat from a right-winger accused of child molestation came calls for delivering policies and societal progress to the voters in heavily black counties who turned out en masse for Jones.
Polling by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, The Washington Post, and other media organizations revealed that 93 percent of black men and 98 percent of black women voted for Jones, compared with 26 percent of white men and 34 percent of white women.
While poll results generated an outpouring of appreciation for black voters, and particularly black women—who "carry this nation on their backs" by "saving the world and the Democratic Party"—the social media frenzy in turn provoked demands to recognize that black voters were casting ballots in their own interest, and as activist Bree Newsome noted, "protecting themselves by pushing back against systemic racism within their state."
Calls for recognizing black voters' abilities to discern what was at stake with this special election were coupled with declarations that, as Charlene Carruthers, national director of Black Youth Project 100 put it, "No amount of verbal appreciation will do us justice." Instead of mere thanks, many used the moment to urge those who were celebrating Jones's win to "do more" to support and serve black Americans.
Trust Black women enough to donate to our campaigns, support our organizations and get out the way so we can win.
— Charlene Carruthers (@CharleneCac) December 13, 2017
For non-Black folks praising Black women in tonight's election - do more. Support Black women. Stand up for Black women. Hire Black women. Vote for Black women.
— ReBecca Theodore-Vachon (@FilmFatale_NYC) December 13, 2017
Dear Fellow White Women Dems:
Don't simply thank black women.
Listen to black women, hire black women, pay black women fairly, encourage black women, support black women, follow black women - be enthusiastically led by black women - and, for the love, ELECT black women #alsenate
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) December 13, 2017
Show up in the fight to end over-suspension of Black girls, the rapidly increasing mass incarceration of young Black women, the disproportionate rates of DV & SA, the continued academic and employment discrimination, the wage gap, misogynoir in healthcare, etc
— Chief Blocka (@FeministaJones) December 13, 2017
"Doug Jones would not have won today without the turnout we saw from African-American voters," Symone D. Sanders, a Democratic strategist, told Newsweek. "Black women have been absolutely clear in their support for Democratic policies and Democratic candidates. It's high time for Democrats ... to invest in that effort."
Sanders acknowledged the impact that grassroots organizing had on bringing black voters to the ballot box while also emphasizing that if Democrats want see similar victories 2018 midterms, they can't count solely count on black women. That "black women have been attempting to save America since the dawn of time," she added, "doesn't mean we should allow the fate of America to be laid at the feet of black women—it has to be a multicultural effort."
"By building a campaign that delivered unprecedented turnout from the new American majority and especially among black women, Doug Jones and the grassroots who powered him to victory showed us a path out of the darkness of 2016 and gave us an ideal boost of momentum as we work to take back Congress in 2018," said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America.
Praise for black voter mobilization efforts, and the overall organizing effort, also came from Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, who tweeted:
Voter turn-out did it for Doug Jones. African-American turn-out, overall Alabama turn-out, both way up. It’s about organizing.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) December 13, 2017