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Reclaiming My Time: The Importance of Addressing The Systemic Barriers Faced By Black Women In Politics

As a Black woman, witnessing other Black women in elected roles is not only significant, but it is powerful. It signifies transformative progress. It goes beyond mere resemblance; it's a recognition of our challenges, our resilience, and our capacity to drive successful outcomes in this nation.

Throughout history, Black women have faced marginalization, dismissal, and being underestimated. We've had to fight twice as hard to gain half as much recognition, to be viewed as capable leaders, and to have our voices heard in decision-making forums. When I witness Black women breaking through these barriers to assume positions of influence in government, it reaffirms our determination and strength.

My work as a research associate has been conflicting at times. Often, tried and true methodologies have had the unintended outcome of being biased, exclusionary, or reductive. This starts at the educational level. The way that we learn about politics excludes Black women. If we are included, we are lumped together with all women of color. So, it’s no wonder we take a monolithic approach to researching non-white women in politics. However, to effectuate meaningful change, we must employ a nuanced approach that focuses exclusively on the barriers that Black women candidates face. From this, we can suggest actionable solutions to increase the representation of Black women in US politics.

Seeing a Black woman elected, whether to a local council, a state office, or a senatorial seat, evokes a sense of pride and optimism within me. I understand that she likely encountered countless hurdles and criticisms along her path, yet she persisted and attained a platform where she could effect change. Representation holds profound importance as it signals to young Black girls and women that leadership roles are within their reach. It validates their ambitions and underscores that despite obstacles, they possess the capability to achieve greatness. It's a message of empowerment and potential.

The election of Vice President Kamala Harris marked a transformative moment for many of us. Witnessing a Black and South Asian woman ascend to such a high office was not only historic but also motivating. It shattered stereotypes and demonstrated to the world that Black women are fully capable of leading at the highest echelons of government. It also reminded us that the fight for gender and racial equity can not end because of one victory. 

Our need for representation spans across all levels, from local boards to national governing bodies like Congress. Each Black woman in a position of influence lays a foundation for others and brings a unique perspective to the discourse. We stand on the shoulders of Shirley Chisom, Mia Love, and Stacey Abrams. Our lived experiences, challenges, and aspirations merit attention and action in the policies that shape our societies and country.

When I see Black women in elected roles, I envision a future marked by inclusivity and equity. I see the potential for substantive change that mirrors the vibrancy of our communities. More importantly, I feel like I have an obligation to continue advocating for progress so that upcoming generations of Black women can thrive and lead unbound by societal limitations.

I felt deeply honored to have had the opportunity to interview inspiring Black women elected officeholders and advocates while conducting research for our new series. Their perspectives brought invaluable insight to our debut brief analysis, highlighting the importance of Black women’s voices in shaping effective policies at all levels of government.

The important contributions of Black women to our nation's progress and unity stand as a beacon of progress, embodying the spirit of resilience and excellence that defines our shared American ethos. The unwavering dedication and remarkable achievements of Black women in politics uplift our society, inspiring generations to reach for greatness and contribute meaningfully to our collective journey forward. 

Despite their significant and often overlooked contributions, the time has come for Black women to step into leadership roles and guide us forward with their invaluable perspectives and experiences. We are on the precipice of something great, and must propel ourselves forward more ardently than ever before. As Maxine Waters would say, it’s time for Black women to reclaim our time!

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