It’s been 60 years since Malcolm X’s now-famous speech where he told the truth about the treatment of Black women in the United States.
Brother Malcolm said, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”
Anyone who thinks those words aren’t still true should watch footage of the House Jan. 6 committee testimony of former Fulton County, Georgia, election workers Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman.
“Do you know how it feels for the President of the United States to target you?” Freeman asked during her testimony.
Ruby Freeman’s courage, and that of her daughter Shaye Moss, to testify — despite enduring two years of racial terrorism because of Donald Trump’s lies — is proof that although Black women may be disrespected, unprotected, and neglected, we are still the heart of democracy. And the Black community can’t wait until white supremacists physically harm Freeman and Moss to turn their names into a clarion call — hashtagged or otherwise — for justice.
Indeed, Washington Post columnist Michele Norris wrote that Freeman and Moss testified “knowing that the threats against them will amplify. They did it knowing that election officials across the country are facing increasing intimidation. They did it knowing that violence is a real possibility.”
And it’s not just media-types paying tribute to what Freeman and Moss did. On Twitter, actor Wendell Pierce called the two women “Modern Day American Heroes.” He wrote that they’re “continuing the courage and dignity of guardians of our civil rights. Our country owes them a great debt. Terrorized by an American President targeted with threats and violence. In the face of death, they served their country.”
In their June 21 testimony, the mother and daughter both described the horrific, racist threats they have been subjected to since Trump and his minions began their campaign of harassment against them.
Moss testified she began receiving “a lot of threats, wishing death upon me, telling me that I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like ‘Be glad its 2020 and not 1920.'”
“A lot of them were racist,” Moss testified of messages she received on Facebook Messenger. “A lot them were just hateful.” Trump’s supporters even targeted and threatened her grandmother.
Freeman had people calling her house threatening her and showing up at her home.
“I don’t introduce myself by name anymore, I get nervous when I bump into someone in the grocery store who says my name. I’m worried about who’s listening. I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders,” Freeman testified.
The harassment started in December 2020 when Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, falsely claimed that security camera footage of the two women helping count ballots showed them passing around a rigged USB drive like “vials of cocaine or heroin.”
Then, in a January 3, 2021 phone call to Georgia election officials, Trump falsely accused them — by name — of rigging the presidential election against him and causing him to lose Georgia to Joe Biden. Trump mentioned Freeman’s name 18 times, calling her a “professional vote scammer,” a “hustler,” and a “known political operative.” He lied and said she “stuffed the ballot boxes.”
Trump did this even though then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue testified that he told Trump there was zero evidence that Moss and Freeman had committed election fraud. But in America, if you’re a Black woman, you’re always fair game for attack. And so the hounds of Rudy Guiliani, Fox News, and other right-wing conspiracy outlets were set loose on Moss and Freeman.
The two women’s lives turned into hell to the point that they were forced to start GoFundMe campaigns in December 2021 because it wasn’t safe for them to go to work.
“I worked with Fulton County Voter Registration from 2011 to 2022, and it gave me pleasure helping the public learn everything about voting,” Moss wrote on her GoFundMe page.
Those days of service are over.
“I’m afraid to go out in public alone or to even tell anyone my name,” she wrote. “My only child has also been greatly affected by the false accusations… I do not want this to happen to any more people, NO ONE deserves to be lied on, harassed, bullied, threatened, or publicly humiliated for any reason.”
Her mother’s words are equally heartbreaking.
“I have lost so much. I’ve had several death threats, terroristic threats, people coming to my home, I no longer feel safe living here,” Freeman wrote on her GoFundMe page.
“All I wanted to do was support the county that I worked for for over 20 years.”
What’s more, the mother-daughter duo weren’t simply doing their civic duty and serving as election workers during normal times. Keep in mind, Moss and Freeman stepped up at one of the riskiest moments of the COVID-19 pandemic. No vaccines were available on election day and total infections skyrocketed past 100,000 per day for the first time on November 4, 2020, the day after Americans went to the polls.
Despite this, Moss and Freeman went above and beyond to ensure people in Atlanta could safely vote.
In the aftermath of Moss and Freeman’s testimony, Michele Norris called for lawmakers to move “with lightning speed” to protect the safety of election officials and poll workers, just as they did for Supreme Court justices.
But will they? And will Congress hold Trump accountable for destroying the lives of these Black women and their families?
After watching Moss’s testimony, white author, activist, and CEO Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin asked some real-talk questions that indicate she understands what Malcolm X said six decades ago:
“Do we love Black women, who show up to vote for Democrats more than any other voting bloc? Do we love Black women, who organize our democracy daily and fight for its survival? Do we love Black women enough to say that this line that was crossed that destroyed the safety and the sanctity of the lives of Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman is a point of no return? Do we love Black women?”
Cronise McLaughlin knows the answer is “no” because of her follow-up question. She asked if instead of loving Black women, America loves “white men so much that we’re willing to just let the most extreme violations of oaths of office and criminal law just slide on by for the sake of ‘politics,’ or fear of accusations of ‘partisanship,’ or in anticipation of outrageous accusations of ‘persecution’ by violent white men who sought to bring down an entire nation, thereby guaranteeing that those same white men or others get to do it again, and again, and again?”
What America owes Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman is reminiscent of that “The Color Purple” scene where Celie puts Mister on notice. Until America does right by Moss and Freeman, until this nation holds Donald Trump and his camp accountable for the racial terror they brought down on these women’s lives, it sure seems like this nation’s democracy’s going to crumble.