Why do we have to question our capacity to respect Black women and their leadership? What do we fear? Change? Accountability? Love and humanity? The qualities that Black women bring to their communities are central to the functioning of these communities. We are not asking this question because Black women are not qualified to lead, we are really questioning our ability to have their backs, to support their leadership and the transformation they bring.
In the 2020 Primary election there is one candidate who has the courage to commit to bringing America into a new light. Joe Biden, Democrat and former Vice President, has a long history of creating and enforcing policies that influence Black lives, but his most recent commitment is to Black women. Biden shares with voters that he will be naming a woman for his Vice president candidate, and it cannot be overlooked that more than half of his choices are Black women.
From Stacey Abrams, Former Georgia State Representative, and Karen Bass, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman, to Kamala Harris, U.S State Senator and former Presidential candidate. It is inspiring to see so many Black women stepping up to the plate, and they are all passionate, qualified leaders. The question is, are we ready to support a Black woman as Vice President?
What do we need from Black leaders?
Black people have a long legacy of inspiring Black leaders who have carried us and the work of our people forward.
There are Black people uplifting and educating Black people today, often their work is overlooked because of the legacy of the leaders who came before them. It is hard to tell Black people that we do not need another Malcolm X or Harriet Tubman. It is hard for Black people to accept that the leaders of tomorrow will serve and support our collective vision in new and non-traditional ways. Whether or not we want to accept the leaders of tomorrow, we will have to accept that we need something different.
Black women making power moves
When we think about Black leadership, Black women are often left out of the conversation. Still they are making all the moves! The fact that Black women feel empowered to pursue higher positions of power and influence also tells us that they are focused on making an impact in the most direct way possible.
In response to the lives lost recently to police brutality, over 40 Black women have taken initiative to pursue local and state offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota. These women heard George Floyd’s call for help, they saw an opportunity to prevent another injustice and they ran for it. There is more than enough room for all these amazing women. Their passion and drive are needed.
As we prepare ourselves to support these Black women stepping into new leadership roles, we also must have the courage to hold them accountable for their responsibilities to the people they serve. Black women have so much potential, we must support them in becoming the best leaders they can become.
Does gender matter?
At the end of the day, where does our gender intersect with our abilities and qualifications?
Figure 1 shows the demographics of Black women holding office in the United States in 2016. In the graphic it is evident that Black women are underrepresented in American politics. One difference that must be noted is the 3% gap in representation between Black men and women. This gap does not mean one group is more qualified than the other, it reveals how gender can provide privilege and access that is denied to others.
The graphic also provides us with an opportunity to think critically about the relationship between gender and race. White women are far more represented than Black men and Black women, privilege awarded to them for being White but simultaneously denied for being a woman. White males surpass every other group because they exist in the privilege of being White and male. When we analyze what these privileges mean for Black women in politics, we find that not only are they under-represented, their leadership is also reduced, and their womanhood is always in the spotlight.
The irony in the challenges faced by Black women is the lack of faith in their leadership and the value placed on their work. Black women in politics are creating and uplifting policies that center the basic needs of everyday people. Health care, housing, child-care and education.
If gender mattered, Black women are overqualified.
Black people for Kamala Harris
Can we make space for our leaders to grow? Or will we trap them in their past decisions and past versions of themselves?
Kamala Harris is the second Black woman to be elected to the U.S Senate and previously the California District Attorney, a role that required her to make tough decisions on behalf of all Americans. With great power comes great responsibility and Kamala has shown us that she has the capacity to do what needs to get done.
Can Black America welcome Kamala for the change and innovation that she inspires today?
The San Diego Monitor-News has been serving Black San Diego since 1986