Our elected leaders should reflect the constituents they represent, which begs the question, why aren’t there more Black women holding office? This country’s current racial and gender diversity statistics are bleak: Black women currently have no representation in the Senate, and there has never been a Black woman governor.
Even more alarming, in the 2020 elections, 117 Black women ran for a seat in the House, and only 25 of those women were elected. Black women have proven themselves as strong leaders, yet they struggle to win in statewide races. With the 2022 midterm elections looming and a record number of Black women expected to run, I hope we can stop this extreme lack of diversity.
Greater representation in congress is why I joined Emerge, an organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office. My goal was to ultimately put more women, especially women of color, into office because I knew a racial and gender shift in congress would not only impact displaced communities in this country. Still, it would also inspire the next generation of candidates.
I recently spoke about the importance of representation with New Jersey State Rep. Sadaf Jaffer on my podcast, The Brown Girls Guide to Politics. She told me about a community event she attended where mothers came up to her with their daughters, telling them they could one day be elected to public office. Seeing a woman of color like Rep. Jaffer, who was also the first Muslim woman mayor in New Jersey, hold office shows young women everywhere that they can one day sit at the head of decision-making tables.
History has shown that our voices and concerns are heard and addressed when Black women are in office. With voting rights being threatened across the country and reproductive freedom at stake, it is important now more than ever to elect leaders in the midterms who are willing to protect these rights and understand how they disproportionately affect women of color.
As it stands, Black women, who will bear the brunt of abortion restrictions, face higher rates of complications and death during pregnancy and childbirth. Reps. Alma Adams and Lauren Underwood created the first Black Maternal Health Caucus to reverse the rising maternal mortality rates in 2019. If these two women had not created this caucus, would Congress have responded to the Black maternal mortality crisis? Imagine how much more could be done for Black women if there were more strong voices like Reps. Adams and Underwood’s speaking up for us in Washington.
Stacey Abrams’ activism and her 2018 gubernatorial campaign brought another huge issue to the nation’s attention: racial voter suppression. Since her loss to Brian Kemp, Abrams has committed herself to fighting to end this issue since more Republican-dominated state legislatures nationwide have adopted voting restrictions to stop Black people from voting, including in Georgia.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that only 40 percent of Black registered voters in Georgia expect it to be very easy to vote in 2022, compared to 73 percent of white registered voters. We must elect members of congress who are willing to advance the federal voting rights that are at stake.
We do, however, have reason to celebrate. Over the past two years, there have been major victories for women of color. Biden recently nominated the incredibly qualified Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Though she will have a tough road ahead, I am thrilled about her nomination.
In 2021, Elaine O’Neal became the first woman of color and first Black woman elected mayor of Durham, North Carolina. State Rep. Mia Bonita, who I recently spoke with on my podcast, became the first Afro-Latina woman to serve in the California Legislature last year.
Black women are looking to make even more historic gains in the 2022 midterm elections, and I’m ecstatic about the slate of women running. There are currently five Black women running for governor in the midterms, including Abrams. Aramis Ayala is running for attorney general in Florida, and Rep. Val Demings is challenging Marco Rubio for his senate seat.
Admittedly, these women will have a tough road ahead of them. They will encounter racism and sexism that I’ve seen too often in my years working in politics. But if there’s anything these trailblazing women have shown, they aren’t afraid to go against the status quo to make a difference for the betterment of this country.
A’shanti Gholar serves as president of Emerge, an organization committed to training and supporting Democratic women running for office. She also hosts the podcast “The Brown Girls Guide to Politics.”