Paving the path for a representative Congress

 Graphic by Anjali Rao-Herel ’22

Graphic by Anjali Rao-Herel ’22

BY NINA LARBI ’22

Last Tuesday’s election saw many historic successes for women of color, including the election of the first Native-American and Muslim women to Congress. These results have garnered support and celebration, as we, women of color, are finally seeing ourselves represented in legislative bodies.

Women of color have had a difficult time being elected to Congress because of the discrimination we face. Since we encounter more bigotry than our white, male counterparts, we struggle raising campaign funds and are placed under considerably more scrutiny by voters than our more privileged peers. This microscope effect is certainly utilized by others to our own disadvantage. For example, Georgia governor Brian Kemp opened a last-minute investigation into the campaign of his opponent Stacey Abrams, a black woman, for alleged cyber crimes. Even though the investigation was clearly fabricated, some voters believed it. It seems to me that if he had made the same accusations against another white male candidate, it seems very possible that his constituents would have been more likely to recognize that it was false.

People often distrust women of color, and Kemp used it to his advantage by creating a fake investigation. According to a study documented in Psychology of Women Quarterly in August of this year, eye-tracking technology was utilized to measure objectification of black women in comparison to white women. The study showed that people tend to associate black women with animals and objects much more than they do white women. The study concludes that due to increased objectification and dehumanization, people are less likely to vote for women of color. But despite these higher levels of scrutiny that women of color are subjected to, these elections proved that people in America do want to hear our voices. Even though these women of color may have had to work twice as hard as the more privileged, they have succeeded in establishing themselves in Congress.

Now, they can finally write laws that reflect our needs, which is especially important considering that the U.S.’s policies have always disadvantaged us socially and economically. Now these laws may be able to change. They will bring a new perspective and have a better chance at preventing Congress from disregarding women of color in the future, as they are paving the way for others to be elected as well.

As women of color, we can win scholarships and get multiple degrees, but winning an election is completely different. Diplomas and scholarships are partially products of will, but the results of elections are much more dependent on others. Candidates can campaign to their hearts’ content, but in the end, it is the constituents that decide who succeeds, and they can disregard candidates on the basis of race or gender. Representation in Congress tells us that Americans are able to hear us and see past the gender and racial identities of women of color so they can elect them based on their platform.

Trump’s America has been nothing but hostile to us because of both our racial and our gender identities. However, Tuesday’s election results indicated that many Americans stand against an exclusionary America. The increase in women of color being elected allows us to finally have a voice in creating the laws that affect us, and shows that Congress is on the path to actually representing its people.

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