Up for debate
Black women’s activist group canvasses for Warren in Nevada
Last week, news broke in several national media outlets that six black women had left Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Nevada team following complaints of racial insensitivity within the campaign.
According to Politico's reporting on the matter, the departures happened over the course of months, beginning in November. The revelations about the departure came just weeks ahead of Nevada's caucuses—which are scheduled for Feb. 22, just a week prior to Super Tuesday on March 3.
The staffers who left the 70-person operation in the battleground state reported to media outlets that they felt “tokenized” by the campaign because of their race. One staffer said to Politico reporters that felt like they were “there to literally bring color into the space, but not the knowledge and voice that comes with it.”
In a Feb. 6 interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Warren did not contest the women's allegations and apologized, saying, “I believe these women without any equivocation, and I apologize personally that they had a bad experience on the campaign. I really work hard to try to build a campaign and a work environment where it is … open, and everyone is welcomed and celebrated, and gets to bring their whole self to work every day. … But I'm also very aware that racism and oppression in this country have left a long legacy, and it creates the kind of toxicity where … power structures people take advantage of other people. It's something for which we have to be constantly vigilant and constantly determined to do better. I take responsibility for this, and I'm working with my team to address these concerns.”
Warren's campaign declined an RN&R request for comment on how the issues are being addressed, but for activist Chris Love, an attorney in Arizona, Warren's statement to Hayes was a good place for her campaign to start the process of rectifying problems.
“I know there were the issues with black staffers who left from here,” Love said during a recent interview. “And they were very clear in their statements that it wasn't Elizabeth personally. … I think that's a symptom of being a black woman working for any campaign. We're supposedly valued. We save the day, but when it comes down to it, people don't listen to us. And rather than be defensive about that, Elizabeth Warren came out with a statement that said, ‘I believe you. I believe that what you're saying is true.'”
Love thinks Warren's statement showed her ability to “listen to folks, really absorb things and be accountable.” It was one of many issues that Love discussed during a visit to Reno last weekend as a part of an effort by activist group Black Womxn For to persuade more voters—of every race—to vote for Warren.
Black Womxn For is a political action and advocacy group that was formed over the summer with the goal of giving black women—both cis, transgender and gender non-conforming—a platform from which to voice their policy preferences and opinions on the upcoming election. The group sent Love to Reno to meet with the Washoe County Democratic Party's black caucus on Feb. 7 and to launch a canvassing campaign for Warren on Feb. 8.
The group endorsed Warren back in November in a statement that touted Warren as not a “savior” but a “stalwart who can be challenged when necessary, moved when appropriate, and held accountable to a base led by Black community leaders.”
Warren, the statement read “is a leader with a track record of taking on the predatory policies and practices that harm our communities and implementing structural changes that give power back to working people. … She is a partner with a deep understanding of how racism and gender discrimination don't just compound income inequality but are actually central to maintaining the status quo. She is a woman who is willing to learn, open to new ideas, and ready to be held accountable by us and our communities.”
Black Womxn For has praised Warren's plans surrounding private prison reform, agriculture, student debt and myriad other issues. And, as primary season continues, the group is organizing meet-and-greets with black voters and canvassing efforts in Reno and places across the nation.
“We'll be doing the same thing that's happening right now in South Carolina and the same thing that's happening here,” Love said. “We're going to be on the ground. We're going to be talking to black voters, specifically, preaching the gospel of Elizabeth Warren and trying to convince those folks of why she's the best candidate to vote for in the primary. Black Womxn For is in it for the long haul. … We're there for as long as she needs us to be there.”
Love admitted that convincing people why Warren is the best candidate may be an uphill battle, especially black voters who—at least in media reports—tend to strongly favor former Vice President Joe Biden. But Love believes it's possible.
“I think we put out a piece with the hashtag ‘Say it ain't Joe,' and it was a guide about how to talk to your friends and family about Joe Biden,” she said. “I just don't know that Joe Biden is really leaning into the space where we're at. I think he's relying on the nostalgia and his connections with Obama. But Elizabeth Warren has connections with Obama as well. … I want to talk to people about her plans and policies, with regards to racial justice. … We can talk about environmental justice. And on every issue, we can have a conversation about why Elizabeth is the better candidate.”
Love also believes Black Womxn For is well positioned to keep up momentum in the months ahead.
“I'll come whenever asked because I believe in the campaign,” she said. “I believe in Black Womxn For. I believe in black women. I believe that we make the world go around. But, more importantly, I think that we're at the forefront of every political movement you can think of. We're willing to be here. We're willing to be wherever we need to talk to other black folks about our candidate.”