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What Black Women Want To See In Candidates' Policy Proposals


We're looking at the results from last night's South Carolina Democratic primary. More than half of the Democrats there are African American. More than half of them are women.

Glynda Carr heads up Higher Heights of America, a group seeking to support black women in politics. And she joins us now. Good morning.

GLYNDA CARR: Good morning.

FADEL: So Joe Biden won and won big, 28 points ahead of runner-up Bernie Sanders. But the margin among African Americans was even bigger, 61% to 17. What does that tell you?

CARR: Vice President Joe Biden obviously had a big win last night.

FADEL: Yeah.

CARR: And, you know, what we've seen in the campaign trail and what he has indicated that he believed that he had a stronghold on the African American vote. And obviously at the base of the African American vote are black women. And African Americans have been polling high for him. But what you've also seen in this election cycle, black women are not a monolith voting bloc, right?

FADEL: Right.

CARR: And you've seen black women supporting candidates like Elizabeth Warren and going in that there are a large percentage of black women that are still undecided.

FADEL: Now, you've tracked the policy priorities of black women, and I wonder if you've seen any changes over time. Does economic inequality, for example, rank differently now than it did, say, a decade ago?

CARR: Well, I think you'll see what black women want at the core of why we vote is we want economically thriving, educated, healthy and safe community. What has risen to the top of the conversations we have had with black women across the country and our online surveying is that obviously the economy and health care and criminal justice reform are major issues. But again, they all intersect. And I think the candidate that can best move our community and the issues that we care about as black women forward are going to be the candidate that's going to be able to coalesce black voters this cycle.

FADEL: So African American women have so consistently turned out to vote for the Democratic Party in the past. And I just wonder if you're seeing these candidates micro-target black women.

CARR: For the first time, in 2020, you see at least an earlier engagement and investment in black women. We are demanding a return on our voting investment. That is in the form of policies that directly impact our black women, our families and our communities. But we also are looking to claim seats at the decision-making tables.

You know, we no longer want candidates to stop and knock at our doors 14 days before the election cycle because they know they need the African American woman vote to win. We are actually expecting them to knock on our doors, consistently, come in for a cup of tea and actually really hear about the issues. We cannot continue to be the backbone, particularly of the Democratic Party. Black women are the building blocks to their winning coalition. But then at the end of the day, black women are at the bottom of every economic, health and social indicator in this country. We are paid 61 cents to every dollar a white man makes. We suffer from the highest incidents of cervical cancer, breast cancer, the struggle to have affordable housing.

FADEL: And is Donald Trump any more popular with African American women now than he was in 2016?

CARR: I don't believe so. I mean, you've seen some polling where, you know, he's actually investing in the African American vote this cycle more visibly and boldly. But I do believe that is targeted probably towards African American men over African American women.

What I believe you will see is that black women want to win this cycle, and that win isn't necessarily tied to a particular candidate. It is tied to the issues that we care about. And we're going to coalesce around the candidate that is going to ensure that - two things, they're going to advance the issues that directly impact black women, but frankly, hold the line on many of the rollbacks that have affected black women overwhelmingly, like voter suppression, issues that are impacting our pocketbooks, a job with a living wage.

FADEL: That's Glynda Carr, president and CEO of Higher Heights of America. Thank you so much.

CARR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.