Thursday, March 19, 2009

Good news about blacks in government, but where are the "sisters"

Inaugurating the United States' first self-identified black president is a tremedous milestone in American history. But in all of the excitement over President Barack Obama, it is easy to overlook the importance of black representation in local and state level government, where--let's be honest--most of the stuff that truly affects our day-to-day lives takes place. In a March 6 article, USA Today reported that there are a record number of African Americans serving in state legislatures and the trend is toward more participation.
President Obama is not the only black leader making history. As of last month, a record five African Americans lead state legislative bodies, and the number of black state lawmakers has reached record levels.

Those leaders are part of a growing movement of African Americans serving in state legislatures, often steppingstones to higher office. The number of black state legislators has risen from 401 in 1986 to a record 628, accounting for 9% of state lawmakers, says Morgan Cullen of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Read more...

Hat tip to Jill at Writes Like She Talks. We both agree that we've seen no other media acknowlegement of this achievement, which I think is one worth celebrating. One important key to achieving racial equality is fervent participation in the democratic process--through voting, public service and activism. Black people need to be in the halls of power, crafting legislation and making sure our diversity of voices are heard.
What I wonder, and the article doesn't say, is how many of those 628 state lawmakers are women? USA Today mentions that California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass is the first black woman to lead any legislature. But where else are the voices of black women represented?
Seeing how black women have been repeatedly marginalized by patriarchy in our communities and in the ongoing struggle for racial equality, it would be to our own peril that we remain on the sidelines in an era of so much change.


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