Orange Alert

On the Shoulders of Giants: Black Women and the 2020 Election

Posted on: Jan. 22, 2021

On November 3, 2020, I commemorated Election Day by wearing a shirt that listed these names: Ida [B. Wells], Maya [Angelou], Fannie Lou [Hammer], Harriet [Tubman], and Sojourner [Truth]. I wanted to honor the legacy that Black women have had in Black liberation and in demanding justice and accountability of the U.S. in the face of its democratic ideals.

With Joe Biden L’68 inaugurated and now the 46th President of the United States, I can envision a new shirt with Kamala [Harris], Stacey [Abrams], LaTosha [Brown], Wendy [Caldwell-Liddell], and Alexandra [Bell] for their hard work in making it happen. I’d probably honor the founders of the #BlackLivesMatter (Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi) with their own apparel.

People across the nation have acknowledged the role that Black women leaders, organizers, and voters had in the2020 election. And they deserve every accolade! Iconic memes of a superhero-cape-wearing Stacey Abrams have captured their can-do spirit, as did the photo of Black sorority sisters’ “strolling to the polls” in support of their fellow soror, and now Vice President, Kamala Harris.

Exit polling has indicated that Black women are the largest voting block for the Democratic Party, and not only this year. They make up only 7.5% of the electorate—yet they are the most reliable voters. No other group has voted upwards of 90-plus percent in U.S. presidential elections. Black women have always been the backbone of progressive American politics. Hence, my Election Day shirt.

But while we rightly celebrate that VP Harris is many firsts (woman, Black woman, woman of South Asian descent and daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in the U.S.), there is still a wariness of whether things will change. And while representation on the national stage matters, I think the best way the Biden-Harris administration can “have these voters’ backs” is by prioritizing issues important to them.

In addition to COVID testing, treatment, COVID-related economic relief and promoting climate justice, the new administration needs to approach the Black community as if they have suffered virus-related economic and social impacts for generations—the virus of structural racism, segregation, and disinvestment. Our country has had more than two centuries to develop a treatment and vaccine for this systemic virus. For too long, it has been allowed to spread, unchecked.

And, it should not be Black women’s burden to eradicate. The summer’s protests was a call for our shared and collective responsibility in transforming our society.

This is an incredible opportunity for all of us to stand on the shoulders of Ida, Maya, Fannie Lou, Harriet, Sojourner, Kamala, Stacey, LaTosha, Wendy, Alexandra and countless others. In times like these, we need to confront the past before we can shape the future, so I encourage you to virtually attend the 36th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. The keynote speaker is civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, who will inspire you to spark and sustain change in every level of society.

Arts and Sciences faculty are also encouraged to register and participate in this Spring’s offering of “Transforming Hot Moments” workshops.

Let us aspire to be the giants looked to by future generations.


Kishi Animashaun Ducre, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion