“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
Shirley Chisholm was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from NY in 1968. There are still 31 states in the U.S. that have never sent a Black woman to Congress. Thirty-one! The 2020 election presents several opportunities to make history and disrupt the status quo.
In seven of those 31 states – Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina – Black women are already the U.S. House nominees. Cori Bush defeated legacy incumbent Lacy Clay in Missouri’s 1st Congressional district. She is favored to win in a heavily democratic district.
Mayor Michelle De La Isla – who identifies as Black, Latina, and white – is the Democratic nominee in Kansas’ 2nd district, which happens to be majority-white. Candace Valenzuela, the Democratic candidate in Texas’ 24th district, which is also majority-white, could be a bellwether to indicate the electability of Black women among majority-white electorates.
So far this year, a record number of Black women (44) have already won major-party nominations for the U.S. House. The previous record was 41 set in 2018. In all of U.S. history, only 2 Black women have been U.S. Senators: Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) and Vice Presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). Unfortunately, that will not change this year.
At least 130 Black women were major-party congressional candidates this year – a record number. While Black women make up almost 8% of the U.S. population, they currently only hold 4.3% (22!) of the 535 seats in the 116th Congress. Historically and since Chisholm’s election fifty-two years ago, there have been a total of 44 Black women elected to Congress, the same number of nominees just this year.
Shirley Chisholm was an influence on other Black women in politics including the aforementioned Sen. Harris, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA). Chisholm died in 2005 and is buried in a mausoleum in Buffalo, NY. The legend inscribed on her vault reads: “Unbought and Unbossed”. Damn right.
Lookout Shirley, your hope is manifest.
McSquirrel yada, yada, yada.