Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Women of Color Understanding "A Time for Change in Politics"


     While some consider the presidential election a big loss for women and particularly Black women, who polls suggest overwhelming supported Hillary Clinton, we experienced some big wins for women of color in major local, state and national elections.

     In federal elections, three women of color were elected to the US Senate, Tammy Duckworth in Illinois who is Asian-American and a former U.S. Army pilot who lost both legs in combat, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, the nation’s first female Latina Senator and Kamala Harris, an African-Indian American who won with the help of 48% Latino voters from the state of California. 

     Three women were elected to the House including Pramila Jayapal in Minnesota, the first Indian-American women to serve in the House of Representatives and Stephanie Murphy, the first Vietnamese-American female. The state of Delaware is sending its first woman ever to Congress, Lisa Blount Rochester who is African-American.  In January, 15 women have been sworn in to the 115th Congress, 12 Democrats and 3 Republicans. Of the 104 women in Congress, 38 are Women of Color. 

     Women of Color also made strides with local elections. In Jefferson County Alabama, the county seat of Birmingham and the most populous city in the state, nine Black female judges were historically elected in district and circuit courts. Another Jefferson County located in Beaumont, Texas elected a Black woman, Zena Stephens to the office of Sheriff.  The county overwhelmingly voted Republican, but elected Zena who is a Democrat in a landslide vote. Orlando, Florida also elected its first Black Female Chief of Police, Val Demings.

     All of the mentioned elected officials won on initiatives that significantly affect women including quality healthcare, equal pay, economic disparity, immigration reform, gun control and racial equality. These wins resulted in voters choosing who they felt were the best candidates, which happened to be deserving women of color. 

     The value in getting involved in the political system can be of significant importance for women, our children and our future. We can start at the community level by being heard and seen in a positive manner. As newly elected sheriff, Zena Stephens says, “I credit my win to my long history in the community and building relationships across political lines.”

     We must look beyond what many women see as a defeat and if history has anything to do with our rise from adversity, we will prevail in breaking the Glass Ceiling.