The United States is in the midst of two cataclysmic events that have had a massive impact on the Black community. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has already killed over 150,000 Americans, has disproportionately affected Black people who are dying at the rate of two to three times higher than their share of the population.
At the same time, America has been coming to grips with deep-seeded racial inequality after the death of George Floyd in March.
Both issues will require bold political solutions, so it's more important than ever for Black people to be represented in positions of power.
The good news is that this year, a record number of Black women filed to run for Congress and 60 of those candidates still have a chance to be elected, either because they've won their primaries or they haven't been held yet.
Some of these candidates will surely be added to the 23 Black women who currently serve in Congress, itself a record number.
Pam Keith, a Navy veteran running in the Democratic primary for a Florida congressional seat, believes the number of Black women in Congress has been growing because people have become more familiar with seeing them in office.
She told Reuters that "people are becoming more comfortable with seeing different kinds of people in Congress. You don't know what it looks like to have powerful Black women in Congress until you see powerful Black women in Congress."
According to a new report by Reuters, "Between 2018 and 2019, Black women saw the largest gain in representation at the state legislative level since 1994. In 2019, a record number of Black women serve in state legislative office."
While the report is encouraging there is still more work to be done. Reuters also reports that Black women are 7.6% of the American population but less than 5% of the total elected to statewide executive offices, state legislatures, and Congress. Less than 2% of all statewide elected officials are Black women and none have ever been elected governor.
via Wikimedia Commons
There is also a huge chasm between Black women's representation across the political divide. Of the 23 women who serve n Congress, including 22 representatives and one Senator, all of them are Democrats.
The only Black Republican woman to serve in Congress, Mia Love, was defeated in her bid for re-election to the U.S. House in 2018.
Despite the fact that Black women are underrepresented in government, it doesn't mean they aren't major participants in the political process. Black women make up the highest participation rate of any group that voted in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.
Black women have no trouble getting to the polls, so it's wonderful to see that more of them have the opportunity to vote for someone who shares their background. Let's hope this trend continues until Black women are equally represented at all levels of government.
"We need to have more people, average, everyday American citizens who are there fighting for average, everyday American citizens," Kimberly Walker, a veteran and former corrections officer from Florida running for Congress, told Reuters.