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Black participation in politics is on the rise

African American participation in politics has been hard-earned. What does the future of representation look like?
Black participation in politics is on the rise
Posted at 7:33 PM, Feb 01, 2024

The number of African Americans participating in the political system is on the rise.

But while Barack Obama making it to the White House may be the high water mark, it's definitely not the whole story.

"That movement started decades before Barack Obama," said Democratic strategist Ameshia Cross. "The fervent ground was built in city after city and state after state of very successful Black people who [in] many cases they were running, they didn't always win. However, they launched campaigns that made sense."

Of all the major political institutions it is Congress — the House of Representatives — that most reflects the diversity of America, with 61 members of the House who are African American. That’s about 13%, which is very close to the population as a whole.

"The wave of social justice movements has brought in a lot more Black representatives that we've seen previously," Cross said. "We saw a lot of young people, a lot of women and millennials and quite frankly even some Gen Z members."

But other political institutions are not so inclusive. The Senate only has four Black members, and 12 in the history of the institution. On the state level, there is currently only one Black governor: Wes Moore of Maryland.

To be sure — any progress that has been made has been hard-earned.

"The state of Black representation is better than it has been, but it's not as good as it could be," Cross said.

"As with anything whenever progress is made, we see the goal posts being moved back," said Atiba Madyun, president at Party Politics U.S. "We have to continue to recognize that when people are making it harder, that means they recognize we are making progress."

"In less than two decades, we are going to be a majority Brown country," Cross said. "That puts a different meaning behind who our representatives happen to be, but also in bigger ways as to why it's so important that our diversity reflect not only the population, but also the views and the policies that the population of people of color would like to see."

SEE MORE: Looking back at the history-making Greensboro Woolworth sit-in

What does the future look like?

"We've seen time and time again where there has been a couple of miles of success for Black people followed in short order by at least 300 miles of taking us back," Cross said. "That has been the push and pull of this nation since the dawn of Black Americans getting here in chains."

"We continue to volunteer in national elections and we vote in large turnout, and expect that the president is going to be the end all — the president is going to fix all the problems. But these issues do not get addressed without the masses actually letting their voices be heard," said Madyun.

"This is not only a fight for civil rights for Black people and access for Black people. If we fall, so do so many other populations, because where Black people receive access and achievement, we also uplift other boats," Cross said. "Policies, practices that benefit Black people typically also benefit other groups."

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