Women of color should be just as tough on Democrat Hillary Clinton as they are on Republican Donald Trump in demanding that the candidates address issues important to them, their families and their communities.
That was the message from Marcia Olivo, a Miami activist who took part in a two-day gathering to mobilize women of color to vote in the upcoming election.
“Every election, we become just ‘a vote.’ We don’t want to be just a vote,” she said during a discussion about engaging disenfranchised communities. “We have a woman running for president, but that does not mean the issues impacting our lives are on the agenda.”
“We should go as hard on Hillary Clinton as we go on Donald Trump,” said Olivo, gender justice coordinator for the Miami Workers Center, a nonprofit that helps working-class communities fight for economic and social equality.
More than 1,200 women representing various groups working to organize and educate low-income women of color met Monday and Tuesday at the Gaylord Resort in suburban Washington as part of the We Won’t Wait summit. The women talked about the issues important to their families and communities and were encouraged to support candidates who offer solutions to their concerns. Speakers and panelists also emphasized the importance of holding officials accountable after the election. The summit came after weeks of small-scale conversations among women around the country.
Women also were encouraged to educate themselves and one another about voting laws and procedures in order to protect themselves at the polls. Speakers suggested creative ways to get people excited about voting and make it easier for them to participate, including organizing carpools and babysitting services, which are common barriers to voting for many low-income women.
Women of color consistently have been among Clinton's most loyal voters. According to the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, Clinton has a 67-point margin over Trump among nonwhite female voters; Obama had a slightly larger 71-point margin above Romney in 2012.
Olivo said women of color are not leaning toward Trump, but they aren't excited about Clinton, either. She said the former secretary of state needs to spend more time talking to women in low-income communities about their particular needs, as opposed to coming up with policies "based on what she thinks we need."
Vivien Labaton, co-founder and co-executive director of Make It Work, which advocates for economic security for working families, said the summit was a chance for participants to develop strategies for pushing for their issues in the election and beyond.
“At a time when everyone is talking about the women’s vote, the Latino vote, the black vote, this is a reminder that we do not lead single-issue lives and we are not single-issue voters,” she said. For women of color, the issues can range beyond racial and gender discrimination to include unequal access to education, health care and jobs, as well as violence and public safety.
We Won’t Wait is a nonpartisan campaign comprising several groups, including Make It Work, the National Domestic Worker Alliance, MomsRising.Org, the Black Women’s Roundtable and the Ms. Foundation for Women. The effort is aimed at rallying women of color, as well as women who are low-income, poor, immigrant or young, to develop a policy agenda to improve their economic security and hold candidates and elected officials accountable.
Labaton said it was important that women feel good about voting for a candidate, not that they’re settling for a candidate.
“They need a champion to affirmatively go to bat for the issues important to them. It can’t be about what we don’t want, but this is what we need,” she said.
Polling analyst Emily Guskin contributed to this report.