Why Race And Gender Representation In Politics Is So Important
One month ago on January 1st, like a madman, I ran in my heels up the steps of the Pennsylvania state capitol building. I was shamefully late. As it was, the drive from my home to Harrisburg was 4 hours away and I had arrived at my hotel only 5 short hours prior with my dog, Fancy, who insisted on throwing up throughout the entire drive. Out of breath, I raced into the building trying to look composed even though I was anything but. I raced through security, exhausted; and because I hadn’t had time to apply makeup, additionally I was self-conscious that I looked as disheveled as I felt. But just in time, I had made it for one of the most important days in my dad’s life. Self-conscious or not, I would just have to deal.
I was met by a white lady who introduced herself as my father’s secretary and requested I follow her to unite with my family. In we walked, together- my father, three brothers, sister-in-law, my step-mom and myself into the chamber to be photographed as the family of the newly elected State Representative of Pennsylvania’s 74th district. Suddenly, all of my exhaustion dissipated and I was overcome with pride. Today, my dad would be sworn in as the first African American Democrat to serve Chester County Pennsylvania.
The same man whose high school guidance counselor told him as a teenager growing up in West Philadelphia that he would be better off joining the army than trying to get into college, now held a Doctorate in Theology and more titles as “first…” than I could even recite. It was this man who, having once struggled through poverty, rat-infested living conditions, and a city littered with gang violence and crime, now stood next to me with his right hand raised swearing to be a servant of the people.
I couldn’t stop myself from lighting up.
There were SO many reasons that I was proud. But the most evident one being that I truly was, in every sense of the word, related to black excellence. While everyone else called him representative, pastor, or Dr. Williams, it was when I cried over a broken heart that I simply referred to him as daddy and Pennsylvania’s 74th district could NOT have chosen a better man. I was related to him and he was relatable to me. Both of us holding the ability to find humor in the same things, feeling such similar pains as two African American overachievers who wanted nothing more than to make our enslaved ancestors proud and build pathways for the black men and women to come behind us.
From my conflicted feelings toward law enforcement and my struggles as a black professional in entertainment to every time I had been called a ‘nigger’ in my mentions… he understood. I could commiserate with him about almost everything without having to explain anything in the way that I so often had to with my white counterparts. And even though there were differences, my being a black woman and him being a black man, it mattered to me to have him in the same circles as some of the very legislatures who would decide whether or not I was worthy of adequate medical care solely because of the melanin in my skin.
It mattered to have him seated at the table with the people who decide my living conditions, my taxes, my insurance costs… things that would in one way or another affect the lives of my black sons and daughters. And even now, it matters that my son and daughter know that, should they choose, they too can affect change from the INSIDE of the room and not on the outside.
With Senators Kamala Harris and Corey Booker having recently announced their 2020 Presidential runs, I’ll be the first to admit that I have to do more homework on both candidates before I can comfortably endorse either. It goes without saying that there are things that give me pause. And it would be foolish to assume that I’ll find myself agreeing in totality with any candidate’s policies. But it has to be said, that it’s nothing short of a dream come true to see more black men and women taking it upon themselves to push back against a tragically unfair “justice” system and seek to change it from the inside out.
It is more evident now than ever that there is something gravely wrong within the fabric of America. While the loudest hatred tends to get the most attention, it’s the offhanded bigotry that does the most damage. Ever so easy to miss because it typically begins with a thought; it’s those very thoughts that should be checked and destroyed most fervently. Those thoughts become words that are placed onto sheets of paper to be signed by lawmakers, legislatures and government officials. Words that get slapped onto red caps perpetuating a lie that a nation could somehow return to greatness if all of its citizens were blonde-haired and blue-eyed.
This is exactly why, whether locally or nationally, it’s important to see more people who look like me getting involved in cultivating change for the children that I have not yet conceived.
Because those children that I bear will need to see the exact same representation on the other side of the bars that have unfairly incarcerated some of their cousins, brothers, sisters, grandfathers, and grandmothers. If nothing else, they will need to know that it is possible. Not despite their blackness but because of their blackness which is coincidentally, synonymous with greatness.
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