Gains for Women in 2018
Let’s flashback to the evening of Tuesday, November 6, 2018. As election results from across the country came in, many feminists rejoiced: 117 women won Congressional elections, according to Vox. Compared to the 89 women elected in 2016, that number demonstrated serious progress toward gender equality in politics. Among the newcomers included the now famous “Squad” made up of ultra-progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib (all of whom are women of color). These women’s political platforms are about as far left as they come, focusing on workers’ rights and fair, affordable health care access.
Progress for Black People in 2020
Flash forward to Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Things in the U.S. were quite different, to say the least. After a police officer murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Black Lives Matter movement exploded. Americans took to the streets in all 50 states to demand justice and end police brutality against Black people. Still, November 2020 is coming — the month when citizens will vote both for the president and for members of Congress.
Something else arrived with the Black Lives Matter movement, though — progressive Black politicians. Just a few months ago, the nation assumed establishment-backed candidate Amy McGrath would automatically secure the Democratic nomination. Although the results are still too close to call, Kentucky’s Senate primary looks promising for Charles Booker, a Black progressive candidate representing the same state where police officers murdered Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman, in her own home.
There are also New York’s 44-year-old Jamaal Bowman and 33-year-old Mondaire Jones, both of whom would replace establishment Democrats. According to CNN, these candidates all support “Medicare for All.” Plus, across the U.S., Black women such as Jackie Gordon, Candace Valenzuela, Pat Timmons-Goodson, Joyce Elliott, and Desiree Tims are running to flip their respective seats in the House.
Why We Shouldn’t Compare the Two
To some — including many in the mainstream media — what happened this past Tuesday felt like déjà vu. This time, however, history repeated itself with Black candidates instead of women. For women, 2018 meant a lot. It’s only June — five months before these Black candidates will take on their Republican opponents (who, for Booker, is none other than Mitch McConnell). But still, 2020 could mean a lot more for Black progressives.
That’s in part because, contrary to what rightwing media probably wants you to believe, the “squad” didn’t represent the entirety of newly elected congresswomen in 2018. Constituents elected many moderate Democrats. 75 of the 117 women elected were white. Republicans Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi won Senate races. Several female Republicans won House and gubernatorial elections.
For these women, womanhood will surely have influenced these politicians’ lives at some point in their careers. However, that doesn’t mean their politics always align with the interests of those with marginalized identities. And quite frankly, white women — like all white people — have a long history of being racist.
It is not anti-feminist to acknowledge that Black progressive wins in 2020 could mean more in terms of equality than 2018 did. Nor does it diminish so many women’s political accomplishments, In fact, it is exactly the opposite. If feminism calls for gender equality, then that goal is not complete until every person of color is considered equal too. And that goal is not achieved by “not seeing color.” It’s achieved by dismantling the culture and systems that propagate racism in America each and every single day. These Black progressive candidates have lived these struggles and are committed to doing just that. If you truly are a feminist, you’ll consider supporting these candidates too.