It's Handled: The Black Female Voice in Politics

by Lauren Bealore

The revolution is being televised and upon the emergence of the Shonda Rhimes primetime television takeover, the phrase “it’s handled” seems to be coined for every African-American woman in power in the real world. With the recent appointment of Attorney General Loretta Lynch and state prosecuting attorney Marilyn Mosby’s persistent advocacy for the recent Freddie Gray case, this phrase seems to give weight to the idea that black women are powerful forces in politics…yet we are usually late to receive invitations to sit at the table and are usually hidden away in the kitchen.

My own personal experience in politics is a testament to this reality. As the only woman of color currently in the position of Finance Director for political campaigns in the Midwest - I see the prowess we have in politics and how beneficial our leadership is to this particular field. Unfortunately, we rarely hold any of these positions, which means our ideas, thoughts, and opinions often go overlooked and fewer strides are made from women of our caliber. Of many different career fields, politics and law have to be one of the most powerful career choices outside of business. Why? Because they dictate our social hierarchy and structure, our economic status, and overall everyday being. Laws are being established daily that effect how we are able to operate not only individually, but as a community.

In a 2014 Women on the Move article, political activist and women's rights leader Leslie Wimes shared that she founded the Democratic African-American Women's Caucus in Florida with the help of Wendy Sejour and Mayor Daisy Black. The purpose of the caucus is to ensure that African-American Women in Florida can make their voices heard. Data has shown that African-American women are the leading force in emerging markets and have been some of the most active in our political process. In the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, black women had the greatest voter turnout across all demographics. Despite this active engagement in the political process, our voices are still usually unheard. So why does it feel like we are constantly the last kid to get picked for dodgeball on the playground?

We have a long historical standing since the American Civil War era of involvement in political issues, even without voting rights. We have stimulated dialogue and promoted advocacy through the suffrage movement, the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, the black power movement, and any other national issue in the United States. Although many of these movements had a misogynistic undertone, we remained active and in turn, we created room for the emergence of a lot of our great leaders in politics such as Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, Carol Mosley Braun, Condoleeza Rice, and Michelle Obama, just to name a few. All of these movements are some of the greatest foundations of politics, and more specifically our two-party system. Although our leadership goes on to be historical feats, we are still in the lower percentage of political leadership in the United States.

Many could argue the importance of having African American women play such a vital role in politics. Well for starters, “Black women experience socioeconomic inequity more than anyone else, yet they vote more than all others (and almost always in favor of the Democratic candidate). There are two important implications in this reality. First, their policy concerns have gone largely unaddressed. Second, despite the evidence of the black electorate bellwether, there is little real effort by candidates to work hard for those votes…These lead to the political alienation of black women. Their votes are taken for granted, and their most pressing socioeconomic concerns are unaddressed.” (Salon, 2013). So what do historical references and statistical findings show? That although alienated and sometimes underappreciated, black women still care. The Black woman in society is reared to still see hope in unobtainable situations. That is what undoubtedly makes black women strong but it is time that our strength is highlighted in a new light.  

Recently, Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy in the quest for the 2016 Presidential seat. For many that follow politics, it is no surprise that the offer for that position was on the table for her since 2008; however, it must be noted that the world has changed vastly since that period of time. Race relations alone stemming from police brutality have stirred up the conversation of where African Americans stand when it comes to their role in law and justice. This frames the question: how will African American women play a role in this election? Will we ever have upward mobility within the United States social hierarchy?