As candidates court the votes of Black women—particularly in the run-up to the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday (February 27)—Black women’s perspectives rarely receive the same amount of attention as those politicians. In her latest piece for Mic, Jamilah King breaks down just how important Black women are in this election cycle. 

King, a former Colorlines staffer, explores how the 1994 crime bill disproportionately impacts Black women via a discussion of the gun violence that claimed her sister. She juxtaposes the contradictions of the nation’s policies and their fallout with the importance of Black women as an electoral constituency, citing the group’s 74 percent participation in the 2012 presidential election—despite the negative impact these policies have had on Black families.

The piece also quotes King’s interview with members of Black Youth Project 100, a Chicago-based group of organizers that exercised its own agency by denying Rahm Emanuel a meeting after the world saw dashcam video of Laquan McDonald’s death at the hands of a police officer.

The whole piece is worth a read, but here are a few choice quotes: 

I was four when my older sister, Tenisha, was shot and killed while walking down a San Francisco street with a friend one Friday night. It was the type of bullets-don’t-have-names misfortune that was, and remains, unshakably common in many Black neighborhoods across the country. Reward posters went up, but no one was ever arrested in the case. The reality of Tenisha’s absence has shaped every facet of my family’s being, but has most profoundly defined the way that we do—or don’t—engage with the political process.

[…]

In just two years, BYP100 has become so powerful that it was one of only a handful courted by embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the days after police released video of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old Black boy, being shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke. The public was angry and calling for the mayor’s resignation. Emanuel, facing the worst political disaster of his decorated career, wanted to show that he had pull with the city’s young Black core, so he did what most powerful people do when they’re in trouble: He asked for a meeting. 

The group declined.

[…]

It’s this political reality that has shaped some young Black women’s opposition to either candidate. “Black women seem to participate the most actively in democracy, and get the least from it,” wrote Alicia Garza, the 34-year-old co-founder of the Black Lives Matter organization, in Time. Months before, the group announced that it would not endorse a 2016 presidential candidate because “sometimes you have to put a wrench in the gears to get people to listen.” That came after the group rejected an overture from the Democratic National Committee. 

Read the full piece over at Mic.