This month we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which enshrined women’s right to vote and held the promise of women’s full participation in U.S. democracy. But as the 2016 election demonstrated, more work is needed before we, as a nation, recognize and reward a woman’s competence and capacity to lead at the highest level of government. As we head into another election cycle, we need effective leadership at all levels of government to unite our divided communities and pursue clear-eyed policies that raise the standard of living for the average American. America’s greatness, I believe, lies in voting Black women into office.

Suffragist Nannie Helen Burroughs holds a banner reading, “Banner State Woman’s National Baptist Convention” as she stands with other African American women, photographed between 1905 and 1915. Burroughs was an educator and activist who advocated for greater civil rights for African Americans and women. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

There are at least three reasons why Black women are uniquely positioned to usher in a new era of American excellence founded on expansive views of equality, fiscal ingenuity and coalition-centric leadership.

Black women strive to elevate everyone.

Black women understand the real implications of being left out and left behind. When the abolitionist and suffragist movements collided in the mid-1800s, most white women suffragists leaned into their white privilege, while many Black male abolitionists leaned into their male privilege. Black women, by contrast, were not protected by race or gender. Life at the intersection of racism and gender discrimination has given Black women an expansive view of equality. We Black women reject the false choice between advancing women’s rights or advancing racial equality. We work for both, and that benefits society at large.

Black women know how to stretch a dollar.

Black women know how to accomplish more with fewer resources than practically any other demographic group; after all, we’ve had to do it all of our lives. Black women earn roughly 62 cents for every dollar made by a white male. When you have to make do with less, you are adept at making strategic and prudent financial choices that balance the essential needs of today with the most promising opportunities of tomorrow. Such budgeting and fiscal ingenuity is needed to establish realistic spending priorities that fund necessary, long-standing programs while rightly elevating and funding newer programs designed to reduce economic and opportunity inequalities.

Black women build coalitions. 

Being both Black and female creates a blanket of compounded discrimination, the weight of which Black women have often been forced to bear alone. From this position, we recognize that societal goals aren’t advanced by any one group working in isolation. We need coalitions. Throughout history, Black women have contributed to and led others in supporting powerful social and political movements, including the suffragist and abolitionist movements. More recently, Black women have been at the epicenter of the Women’s March, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. We Black women know how to build coalitions that advocate for change in our neighborhoods, our states and our nation.

Now, more than ever, such inclusive, fiscally adept and collaborative leadership is needed. In short, if we want America to be great, we must vote Black women into office. A vote for Black women will reinvigorate the 19th Amendment’s 100-year-old promise to all women and ensure that skills and perspectives, which have been tested and proven over a long, difficult and poorly taught history, are applied to solve the very real challenges facing our nation today.

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