Our Body Politic

2020 Election Special: What's on the Agenda for Women of Color Starting the Day After

Episode Notes

Farai Chideya talks with Errin Haines, editor-at-large of The 19th, and Jess Morales Rocketto, civic engagement director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, about what motivated women of color to turn out at the polls and take up leadership roles in activism, media, and more. Plus, what WoC want to see in political leaders from now on.

Episode Transcription

Farai Chideya: 

I'm Farai Chideya and this is Our Body Politic. So we have a special bonus episode for you about what else? The election, except it's not really about the election. What it's about is how we are going to take power and shape our futures from here on out. This show has always been about self-determination within a flawed construct of a flawed country and a flawed political system, but it's what we've got. And we are going to run with it and here to help discuss where we go is Errin Haines, veteran political journalist editor at large at the 19th News and a regular on Our Body Politic. Hi, Errin.

Errin Haines: 

Farai it's here. It started from the primary. Now we're here.

Chideya: Yep. And we've also got Jess Morales Rocketto, civic engagement director at the National Domestic workers Alliance. And co-founder of She Se Puede and she was the lead digital political organizer for Hillary Clinton and Stacy Abrams. Welcome back Jess.

Jess Morales Rocketto: 

Hi. Very excited to be here.

Chideya: Yeah I'm excited to be here with both of you, because I feel like all I've been doing is reading articles, doom scrolling, and eating ice cream. How have you both been like weathering the storm? I'm going to start with you Jess.

Morales Rocketto: I mean, I just, honestly been trying to work as hard as possible. It is easy to be overwhelmed if there is nothing to fill the time, but I'm just trying to do everything I possibly can to help with potential contested election scenarios, voter protection. I picked up my own texts and call shifts like organizing is very centering in these stressful times.

Chideya: I love that. Errin, what about you?

Haines: Yeah, I mean I think it's kind of similar to Jess. I think as journalists, we actually have a place to kind of channel all of this energy around the election and the uncertainty and the chaos that seems to be swirling around. But as journalists focusing on the work, telling the stories about who and where we are as a democracy and headed into election day, what I realized, which is what I have written about is that women are really going to decide this election. No matter what happens, women are the deciders in 2020, and that's a coalition led mostly by black and brown women. But also really with the progressive white women who have been on a journey pretty much since 2016.

Chideya: I want to circle back to women with both of you but first Errin, can we just talk about Weezy and you know, all the other-

Haines: Do we have to? Do we have-

Chideya: I'm like, if this was not a Twilight Zone episode already, just seeing Lil’ Wayne posing with the president.

Haines: Sure.

Chideya: I said, what is going on here?

Haines: We know, what's going on is, I mean rappers in general have had a interesting relationship to Trump long before was president. I mean I'm somebody who is a child of the nineties, who knows that there were many references to Trump in rap songs. He was somebody that they associated with success, with wealth, right. So, I mean I think that is maybe why the president thinks that he could do even better with black men than he did four years ago. He got 13% of black men which certainly is nowhere near a majority. But it is way more than the overwhelming majority of black women who rejected him in 2016. And so folks like Little Wayne, I know it seems unusual, but I think that actually is a window into why you may have black men who are open to the president's candidacy, even though obviously the overwhelming majority of black voters are not.

Chideya: And Jess we have talked to Mutale Nkonde on the show, who's a disinformation expert about how disinformation is targeting communities of color. How do you see both information and disinformation reaching latino and black men? Which seems to be... there seems to be a gender difference. I don't know. Are you perceiving that too?

Morales Rocketto: Absolutely. I am so glad you asked this. This is like... I'm about to like beautiful mind up here. Okay so there's one big problem which to their... I won't give them credit, they don't deserve credit, but that the Republicans have assessed, which is the Democratic Party does have a young men problem. And this isn't just latino men or black men, it's also white men too. This is the Bernie bro phenomenon they have a young men problem. What the Republicans, Trump, whoever, the right wing are doing now is not trying to get the support of black men or latino men, because that is antithetical to their whole situation, their whole experiment, which is all about white nationalism, ethno nationalism and white supremacy. What they're actually trying to do is break off institutional support of black men and latino men, which is to say they want them to be disenfranchised, not just in voting in one election, but actually literally in believing that there's any institution that could be for them, that their vote matters at all that anyone's votes matter.

Then there is the actual misinformation, the conspiracy theories of QAnon which helps people conflate all kinds of things that they might have heard into one weird twisted narrative. This isn't about getting black or latino male support. This is about confusing people, that's all that it's about. And it is also about really a disempowering message, a fearful message. Care In Action we saw some voters saying they were two times more likely to be voting specifically about safety. When he followed up and asked them about safety, it was about COVID. They are afraid of getting a disease. So you have this whole cesspool of this misinformation, this negative campaigning, the fact that the right wing is willing to do anything and say anything to win. And you have people's real raw fear and anger about what's happening in the world. And they are exploiting that to the extreme. And yeah it works on your average non-college hopeful voter and then it also works on semi relevant nineties rappers.

Farai Chideya: Yeah, yeah appears to be. Now you've mentioned Care In Action. Tell us a little bit more about that and what it's doing and has done in terms of looking at counting every ballot. Okay.

Morales Rocketto: Yes. You know Care In Action is the nonpartisan organizing arm for legislation and advocacy for domestic workers. So the nannies, elder care workers and housekeepers that really make all other work possible. And four years ago after the Trump victory, domestic workers really gave us a mandate. They said build political power because we never want this guy to win again. And we have done everything we can to build domestic workers as an emerging political force. And one major inflection point in that work was the 2018 elections, Stacey Abrams.

And I have been in campaigns for a really long time. I've experienced lots of voter suppression. What happened there is on a whole other level. Her opponent was the secretary of state. We had kind of nefarious things happening throughout the race. And one of the things that really radicalize us about that experience, it wasn't that we didn't fight back hard enough or even that Stacy herself didn't lead us. In fact, she did. She refused to concede in that election and in partnership with many folks in the state, in Stacy's campaign, we worked very, very hard to make sure that every vote was counted and then people were able to exercise their rights.

It's clear that we need a complete overhaul on our democracy because the other side has really exploited every single loophole. There is not just, I would say voter suppression, but violence around people exercising their right to vote at every level, means that we have to fight back, not with our own kind of counter to their suppression, but actually with a complete change of how the laws work, how voting works in this country to make it truly inclusive and make it so that anyone can vote. And it's so easy, that is the opposite of what we have right now.

Haines: And Farai can I just piggyback on what Jess is saying because really, I mean domestic workers are really essential workers, have been front and center in this pandemic and front and center in the conversation around voter suppression. These are the folks who are most vulnerable to potential voter suppression and voter depression. They do not have hours and hours to be waiting in line to cast a ballot. They may not be able to take a day off with pay, to be able to participate in this election. And so they are among the women and folks in this country who stand to be disenfranchised. It is absolutely something worth lifting up, not just on election day, but beyond 2020, something must be done to make this election a system more free and fair and accessible to everybody. But I think this group in particular is just so exemplary of the need for change around voting rights, voting access.

Chideya: Errin I wanted to really take it in a direction with you about the media. Both of us have been longtime journalists and this election has really been instrumental to me in understanding how much I've been a student of America, but also how much I've been a student of how the news covers America. What do we want to learn as journalists from the coverage of 2016 and 2020 so that we can continue to move in a direction where media really serves women of color and all Americans?

Haines: Yeah. I mean that's a great question. And what we know is that Americans are more focused on this democracy than ever, but they need an accurate picture. And that's why representation matters when we know that women are the majority of the population. When we know the way the demographics are trending in this country, to not have more diverse newsrooms that reflects this country's population, but also its electorate, its journalistic malpractice and it should not continue.

Chideya: And where do you see women of color? Not just reporters like you and me but other women of color stepping into the information breach.

Haines: I have to say, we know what the pipeline looks like Farai because we weren't in it.

Too often we know that the gatekeepers of political journalism are white and male and the folks that they bring along into that pipeline are folks who have looked like them. And so I had to raise my hand and also reach back and see younger women of color who are wanting to do this job and saying, you know what? Yes, you can do it too. I think going forward, certainly I have a lot more company on the campaign trail than I had four years ago or even eight or 12 years ago that's to be lauded. But I think that it's not nearly enough. We know that it's not nearly enough. And I think that now that there are more of us that we will be reaching back to bring people along who are not always seen as coming in the package that this country tends to think of as who can be a political journalist, but we are absolutely up to the task. And I think this cycle has proven that amongst so many of the intrepid women of color, who I was on the campaign trail with.

Chideya: And Jess let me reframe that for you in terms of organizers and strategists. What do we see moving ahead for women of color who want to be political organizers or campaign strategists, people like you?

Morales Rocketto: You know, I think one of the most exciting developments that we had in the primary is you had probably the most diversity in your leadership cohort that you've ever had in presidential campaign level for sure. You have right now Julie Rodriguez, who is the highest ranking... I mean one of the highest ranking latinas ever in presidential politics and who is the deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden. And then you just... I mean just a host of other folks who were doing this work. And that's really exciting because it represents a big investment by a number of people to make sure not just that there was a pipeline of organizers at the lower levels, but also that the people who needed to be promoted and recognized at the middle management and senior management levels were also promoted. That matters a lot because what usually happens is at the field organizer level, which is the lowest level on the campaigns, it's populated with tons of diverse folks, they just churn through and there's no opportunity for advancement.

And it means that the strategy, the messaging, the pulling of those campaigns never changes. It also means that a bunch of us didn't get discouraged and leave the industry after 10 years of getting passed over for all the big jobs. So this is a major major, I would say milestone in this particular election. Then you have, I think something very important, which is more movement forces moving into the electoral space and really staking a claim around what my friend Jessica Bird calls electoral justice, and that creating a whole new set of political operatives and campaigners who bring with them, both the practice and base of social movements into electoral work and are starting to frankly bring a completely new politic into that space. So I think there actually have been some really exciting developments. I feel like there is always more to do and certainly more that white leadership, which is still pretty dominant in this space.

As I know it is in media continues to both make space for our voices, our leadership, but also that we have the ability to create what needs to be created, kind of in our images and with our ethos. Because I think a lot of us have learned that these kind of white spaces, even if they're not said as white, but you know, where the dominant thinking and frame is white, we're not waiting for them to realize and recognize us. I think a bunch of us are just kind of going off and creating that ourselves, not unlike you Errin and the 19th.

Chideya: So I want to wrap this up with both of you and I'm going to have you go first Errin, and then you just... So we are really going to focus here on Our Body Politic on how we as women of color build a future that we want to live in. And just something simple. What is... not for journalists or for organizers, but for any woman of color listening, what's one simple thing that she can do to help move the ball forward towards a future we want to live in, Errin?

Haines: I would say black women. It is only an asset to bring your full self to your work, to your community, to every aspect of your life. I think this pandemic has shown so many of us that there has to be a new normal on the other side of this. And I think a big part of that is going to be the realization that our lived experience improves, this democracy improves this society and helps perfect our union.

Chideya: Oh yeah. I could not agree more. Jess...

Morales Rocketto: You know one of the things that I have really learned from working with domestic workers is that dignity and respect first start with you, and that those things can't be taken away from you. They aren't given to you by anyone and working with domestic workers has really taught me that from that dignity and respect, it gives two inexhaustible resources and that is love and power. And we really believe in leading with love in the domestic worker movement. We don't mean that in a corny way. We believe that deeply that it's a force that can't be denied, will not be broken. And we believe in building power. And I think that as women of color we're often asked to shrink down or be afraid and as opposed to kind of standing in the power and really contending with what power we're trying to build and that the Domestic Worker Alliance and Care In Action we're really really clear. We are trying to build power that enables every single domestic worker and women of color to have dignity and respect that they didn't... not just earn but deserve and we're born with, and it's not going to be given to us. It is going to be... we are going to give it to others. And then they're going to understand that we are leading and that we're not waiting around to get what we want and to really build the future that we really dream of, which is going to help everyone.

Chideya: Jess Morales Rocketto is Civic Engagement Director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Errin Haines, our regular contributor for sipping the political tea, is editor-at-large at the 19th News. Both of you are just women I am really happy to know and happy that you're doing your work in the world. Thanks so much for coming on to our special.

Haines: Thank you Farai. You know, you are my sister in this work. Thank you for bringing us back together. It's a reunion.

Morales Rocketto: What a pleasure. Thank you so much.


Chideya, Farai, host. “2020 Election Special: What's on the Agenda for Women of Color Starting the Day After.”  Our Body Politic, Diaspora Farms LLC. November 4, 2020. https://our-body-politic.simplecast.com/