Activists Call Out The Lack Of Black Women In The U.S. Senate


The month of January featured a number of Black women making major strides in the realm of public service. Shirley Weber made history as the first Black Secretary of State in California. Elsewhere, Rep. Cori Bush has made major waves while serving as Missouri's first Black congresswoman. Most notably, Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first Black Vice President of the United States. While Weber, Bush and Harris have made major strides for Black women in politics, a hole has emerged in the United States.

As Kamala Harris assumed the office of Vice President in historic fashion, her place in the Senate was filled by Alex Padilla. While Padilla made history as the first Latinx Senator from California, the departure of Harris meant that no Black woman would serve in the Senate during the first years of her Vice Presidency.

"It cut pretty deep knowing that we were going to be fully erased from the Senate," Molly Watson of Courage California told NPR.

"Everybody else is represented in the U.S. Senate except for us, period,"

Initially, advocates had pushed for Reps. Barbara Lee and Karen Bass to fill the seat. However, Governor Gavin Newsom chose Padilla.

"We've got to figure out what to do after everybody spent all this time loving Black women and thanking us for saving the country and doing the work in the background, but not ever being pushed to the front or believed in to do the jobs of actual elected representatives as we so often see," Watson added.

Breaking through the barriers of the Senate has proved to be difficult over time for Black Americans. Each state has been provided two Senators for more than a century. However, there have only been 11 Black Senators since 1870. Of those 11 Senators, only two have been Black women. With Padilla expected to run for re-election in 2022, it is unlikely that there will be a Black woman in the Senate before the end of President Joe Biden's four-year term.

Oftentimes, Black women are barred from having a true shot at the Senate due to discrimination and economics. The first Black woman to serve in the Senate, Carol Moseley Braun, said that many campaigns fail due to a lack of high-level donors.

"It's bloody expensive. You're talking multimillion-dollar campaigns," she said.

"And if you don't start off with a Rolodex full of people who can write big checks, and write big checks to the party. If you try to do it the 'pass the hat' kind of way, that doesn't work anymore."

While economics play a major role in these campaigns, Stefanie Brown James of The Collective PAC is determined for the Black woman who propel the campaigns of others to have their own seat at the table.

"The entire progressive community needs to really put their money where their mouth is," James said.

"Don't just say that Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party. No, you need to show us with support and with resources that you understand the importance of Black women, not just as voters but as candidates as well."

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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