The senate race in Alabama yet again confirmed the undeniable fact that white women are complicit in the renewed popularity of the extreme right.
Last week, the victory photos rolled in as Doug Jones beat Roy Moore to the senate seat in Alabama which had been made available after Trump appointed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. It was one of the most watched senate races of all time. The absurd has become routine in politics, but even Moore was enough to make many people feel sick to their stomachs given that allegations of sexual abuse followed him closely throughout his campaign. Doug Jones should have been irrelevant to an extent; Moore was so bad that anyone should have been able to win (just like against Trump) but two of the most shocking facts were that up until the vote it looked like a dead heat, and what has been confirmed since then is that white women voted for Moore.
Photos poured in of white people celebrating, and one headline from NBC News even paid tribute to women saying ‘Alabama’s women wrote the verdict on Roy Moore‘. This was a sweeping generalisation that minimised the input of black women and women of colour, and erased the damage that white women risked doing.
The statistics are clear; white women (with and without college educations) voted for Roy Moore. It was black people who voted for Doug Jones. It was white people who voted for a candidate that was accused of sexual abuse, is virulently queerphobic and would uphold and push forward white supremacist policies. The only significant difference compared to the General Election was that white women with college educations nationally had voted for Clinton, but now they were firmly in the Republican camp at Alabama. This was a victory for and delivered by black women. This isn’t a victory for white women when white women voted for the losing candidate.
“White women (with and without college educations) voted for Roy Moore”
The fact about college educated white women voting for Roy Moore is important. There’s been a lot made of Trump’s intelligence and the intelligence of his voters, but college educated white women are voting for his candidates. White middle class women are voting for white supremacists. White people are who are driving the resurgence of the far right and emboldening racism, and then white people are given the credit when these candidates are defeated.
The deciding factor in the elections has been whiteness. It has taken huge numbers of black voters to turn out (and it must be remembered that Alabama has a history for suppressing the votes of black people) for such a deplorable candidate to be defeated. Such races are far too close. It shouldn’t require so many people of colour to have to turn out. These races should never be so close at all.
While we may have seen the Women’s March and many leading white political figures, activists and celebrities coming out against Trump it must be acknowledged that while all women will suffer under politicians who are misogynistic, white women inherently benefit from white supremacy – and to many white women voters, it is oppressing the rights of others that matters more than standing up for equality, truth or justice.
The complicity of white women must be acknowledged because they are such a fundamental component to the political mess the US, and much of Europe, is in right now. It is by addressing and challenging this specific group of hate that change can come about. While white women continue to be applauded for voting for Jones when they did no such thing, it fails to hold them to account. It matters here in the UK too. When white women vote for Leave to stop migration, we are complicit. When we will protest period poverty but not the rights of women and colour (especially trans women of colour) in detention centres in the UK then we are complicit. When we talk about equal pay but never mention how women of colour are disproportionately impacted by inequality and unfair pay then we are complicit. We need to stop talking about women when we only frame conversations around whiteness. The truth is for a lot of people, white women are as dangerous as white men and we need to be accountable for that.