Election Day is quickly approaching and it is our civic duty to choose the candidate we want to represent our state in government. This election cycle is proving to be quite unique, as a record number of Black women are running for government positions.
In the United States, no Black woman has ever been elected as governor. CAWP Rutgers reports that this could change this year, as there are many Black women running for the position. Currently, there are no Black women serving in the senate since Kamala Harris gave up her seat when she was promoted to Vice President. According to Bloomberg, 21 Black women are now running for a seat in the senate. It is a beautiful sight to see more women of color fighting for a voice in politics. Our government should reflect our country, which means that it should be just as diverse as the people who reside in it. Diversity brings new perspectives and ideas into the public eye.
On Oct. 17, 2022, a debate between Stacy Abrams and Brian Kemp took place. The two battled on issues such as gun control, abortion and racial issues. In every debate, candidates typically have strategies to gain the advantage when answering difficult questions. There may be certain points that they have prepared to counter and defend. Each candidate is trying to prove to the viewers why they deserve your vote. When doing this, I find that it is appropriate to criticize behavior, policy and dishonesty of the opposite candidate. However, it is inappropriate to tear a candidate down because of race, gender and sex.
During the debate, Kemp issued statements that many argue played into the stereotype of the angry Black woman stereotype.
“I know Miss Abrams is upset and mad,” Kemp said.
The angry Black woman trope has been used to describe Black women for decades and is used to diminish their character. It is frustrating to see these outdated stereotypes continually being used in the present. It’s frustrating to think that emotions are somehow a reflection of a candidate’s entire ability and worth. It is frustrating that there are many people who could be swayed by this response.
Stereotypes are damaging, because they can cast a shadow over an entire group of people. Politically, trigger words have the power to persuade how a citizen can vote.
This is not the first time Black women have been targeted because they convey emotion, ambition or toughness. Politicians such as Kamala Harris, Maxine Waters and Michelle Obama have repeatedly been labeled as mad, nasty, radical, crazy women. This label has been given out if their line of questioning is too tough, or if they show passion in a certain cause. There is a certain level of racism beneath this stereotype, as it ascertains the idea that all Black women are always angry and are therefore incompetent. Obama, in a 2016 interview with Oprah, mentioned that she believes the stereotype is rooted in fear.
“We are so afraid of each other…color, wealth, these things that don’t matter still play too much of a role in how we see one another,” Obama said.
Although many people may not see it this way, I believe the word angry should be switched to the word passionate. Many of these women running have had journeys where the odds have constantly been stacked against them. Many of these women are simply trying to protect their communities in ways past politicians have been blind to. Democrat Val Demings is challenging Republican Marco Rubio for his seat in the Senate representing Florida. Cheri Beasley, who was North Carolina’s first Black chief justice, is running against Richard Burr for his Senate seat. Both women could break the barrier and become the first Black female senator for their respective states. Both women are qualified, and their record should be taken into consideration. In Demmings’ debate against Rubio, she used her qualifications when discussing abortion.
“As a police detective who investigated cases of rape and incest … I don’t think it’s O.K. for a 10-year–old girl to be raped and have to carry the seed of her rapist. No, I don’t think it’s O.K. for you to make decisions for women and girls,” Demmings said.
The issues these women discuss are personal to them. There is a sense of urgency for change. In Abrams’ debate, she talked about why voters should pick her.
“The current failures we have seen in this state are not only damning, they are disqualifying, and over the next few years, we have an opportunity to change the trajectory of the state,” Abrams said.
In debates and interviews, all politicians make bold statements, to not only be seen, but to be heard. How is a point supposed to resonate to its audience without conviction? Why are male politicians allowed to be emotional and in turn gain sympathy? When women show any type of emotion, it is considered a weakness. One action or quote from a Black female politician can stain her perception, while consistent insulting comments from her white male counterpart is overlooked. With so many Black women running, opposing candidates have to find ways to turn their voters away from them. Unfortunately, these tactics are rooted in sexist and racist undertones.
When voting this November, candidates should be chosen based upon policies, qualifications and hopes for the future. Candidates should not be judged purely based upon stereotypes. In the age of misinformation, it is important that we check the information we hear. Just because a candidate says something on stage, or in an interview, does not mean it is particularly true. Candidates use traps and bait their viewers into believing one thing over the other. Do not fall into this trap, and make decisions for yourself on who you want to represent your state for the next few years.