Op-Ed: Texas Flipping Hinges on the Power of Young Black and Brown Voters

by | Oct 28, 2020 | Opinion, Politics

Over the last four years, Americans have watched Trump refuse to denounce white supremacy – a low bar of what should be the basic cost of admittance to hold the highest office, in one of the most diverse countries on earth. As Latina and Black women, who have given years of our lives mobilizing voters here in Texas, it was a vivid and painful reminder of what is at stake for our country this election. We are a country at a crossroads, where Black and brown voters – particularly in Texas – have the power to save our 220-year-old democracy and the opportunity to elect candidates down the ballot that will address the pain and systemic racism that impacts our economy, education and criminal justice systems.

Trump’s presidency is the symptom of our country wrestling with the question of who we are with our rapidly changing racial and ethnic demographics. With these changes, people are wondering what our leadership will look like, what issues will get tackled and how – especially since the majority of our population are people of color and children of immigrants. No place is more emblematic of this question than Texas.

Many people still picture Texas filled with white cowboys roaming the western plains. And while there are many great cowboys in our state, what people should actually envision is a state that is majority urban, young, brown and Black. The state’s demographics have shifted rapidly, especially in the suburbs, which is why Trump’s racist rhetoric about an “invasion” of the suburbs mostly falls on deaf ears in the Lone Star State. Today, Texas is just one of five minority majority states in the country.

Home to the fastest growing population in the U.S., the largest Black population of any state and the state where Latinos outnumber white people who’ve relocated here 9:1, Texas, for the first time in decades, seems within reach of turning blue. Texas, on the cusp of turning blue, has already seen record breaking turnout with more than one million votes cast after the first day of early vote and polls showing Biden leading Trump.

For years in Texas, we’ve seen a population that in large part doesn’t like those in elected office. That could change this year. Texas has a cohort of qualified candidates of color running throughout the state, including Candace Valenzuela CD24, Delia Parker-Mims for Denton County Commissioner, Akilah Bacy HD138 and Lorenzo Sanchez HD67. These candidates are driving the grassroots level enthusiasm that’s translating into new and infrequent voters showing up to vote. Counties where these diverse candidates are running have seen the highest increase in voter turnout this week. Denton tops all counties across the state with a 112% increase from 2016, doubling the first day of early vote participation, and  Harris County follows with a 90% increase.

These candidates haven’t just seized on demographic shifts to propel their campaigns – they have also spoken to the issues that have often been ignored by other elected leaders. These candidates have spoken about the issues of police brutality, as the Black community is spearheading what some are calling the largest movement in U.S. history. In Dallas, Black and brown organizers fought and won the diversion of $7 million from the police budget, demanding that funds be reallocated to increased mental health services and drug treatment. And in Houston, one of the cities with the highest eviction rate during the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen communities of color come together to protest the ongoing evictions. These efforts have effectively prevented many evictions.

Democratic candidates, from the presidential race to local county races, have been making systemic racism a centerpiece of their campaigns, and it’s due to the organizing and hard work of the Black Lives Matter movement and people of color that are staking out a new future for the Democratic Party and country. It’s bringing to the surface issues that have long needed to be addressed. Not only for the sake of communities of color but for all Americans. When we invest more in our schools, than in building prisons and detention centers, that serves the interests of not just Black and brown communities but all Americans.

As organizers, we know the attacks by this president on the Black Lives Matter movement and Latino immigrant communities are because this president truly fears us. He fears our vote and power to determine a different direction for our nation, and he should. When Texas flips, it will be because of a diverse electorate that looks like a changing America. For the communities we work with, flipping Texas is not the end but the beginning. We seek to achieve real democracy, where by which our nation lives up to its promise to guarantee every American the same inalienable rights and opportunities.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is a former Democratic US Senate Candidate for Texas, co-host of the podcast Three Righteous Mamas, and founder of Jolt and Workers Defense Project. 

Delilah Agho-Otoghile was the Texas State Director for Beto for America and Cofounder of VoteSimple.

Photo: Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images

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