Women of color took center stage at Democratic presidential forum

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Photo: She the People

In the first ever presidential forum geared toward women of color, many of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates convened Wednesday before a packed house at Texas Southern University in Houston.

Joy Reid of MSNBC, Aime Allison of She the People, and audience members – largely African-American and Latina women – lobbed a battery of policy questions at the eight candidates. Most discussed health care for all, a more humane immigration system, affordable housing, voting rights, and criminal justice reform.

Perhaps the most illuminating question, however, was the one every candidate received: Why should women of color vote for you?

Sens. Kamala Harris and Corey Booker and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro pointed to their track records on policy advocacy for women of color and shared personal stories of growing up as people of color.

Beto O’Rourke took a humble approach, admitting that voting block isn’t “something that I’m owed, not something that I expect — something that I fully hope to earn by the work that I do on the campaign trail.”

Bernie Sanders didn’t directly answer the question, though he railed on white supremacy and racism.

Virtually all primary contenders were well received by the audience. But after Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii pointed out there are “a lot of bad people in the world,” an audience member shouted back, “You’re one of them!”

Elizabeth Warren, known in Washington as a fighter for the little guy and girl, kept things during her Q&A session. She tried to sound the alarm, she said. around the mortgage housing crisis of 2008 but was ignored, realizing “when your ears are stuffed with money, you can’t hear well.”

She the People’s Allison made clear why everyone had gathered at TSU for the forum.

“[W]e women of color are 20 million strong and our voices matter. We consistently go to the polls. We want and deserve a government that works for us. We care about foreign policy that builds bridges and strengthens relationships, leveling the field for equal pay, criminal justice reform. We say to the candidates, you can dismiss us if you want, but at your own peril.”

Last year 19 African-American female judges won their elections. Veronica Escobar of El Paso and Sylvia Garcia of Houston became the first Latina members of Congress from Texas. And Lina Hidalgo became Harris County’s first Latina county judge, the county’s top executive position.

Nationally, almost 120 women won their elections in 2018, 42 of whom were women of color.

“My salon, and thousands like it across the country, is where the 2020 election will be decided,” wrote former Maryland congresswoman Donna Edwards recently wrote in the Washington Post. “For Democrats, the quest to win the 2020 primary and general elections flows through the vibrant conversations of black women on a Saturday morning — a time and place of unvarnished truth among women of all classes and life experiences.”



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