Politically unseen



Do “progressive” political movements adequately assist in placing the experiences and interests of black women in the forefront of its policy changes?  Do these movements support black women candidates—-both politically and professionally—- in their efforts to advance toward equality and equity?  Are these movements welcoming to the diversity of her voice and to her unique presence at its decision-making tables?  Do you notice her absence?

As a demographic, black women do their part to improve this country.  Politically, black women have high voting rates, at times higher than any other racial or ethnic group nationwide.  Educationally, she is making significant progress in earning collegiate degrees. Furthermore, her presence in the workforce is undeniable, inclusive of being business owners. Still, finding political representation that speaks to her specific concerns and interests seem consistently evasive. Why is she underrepresented in elected office?

Meet former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner. Turner held the office of state senator from September 15, 2008, through December 31, 2014.  In 2016, Turner declined Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein’s offer to run as her vice-presidential running mate.  Currently, Turner is president of “Our Revolution,” a progressive political action organization.

In 2011, “The Cleveland Plain Dealer” designated Turner as “the region’s ‘it’ politician.”  During that time, she frequently appeared on MSNBC and was a leading Democratic voice on such issues as voter identification laws and collective bargaining.  Interestingly, in 2014 state party leaders seemed to overlook her when they were recruiting candidates to run in statewide races.

This disregard of women, and specifically the disregard of black women, is not limited to the political arena. Sadly, it also occurs in places of employment and in other professional environments. These biased beliefs that women do not bring value to upper-level positions are often times magnified when the women in question are black. Efforts addressing the practice of taking her for granted, specifically when it happens to black women, are frequently silent. These concerns are systematic.

Although not approached by Ohio’s state party leaders, Turner decided to run for Ohio Secretary of State anyway.  She has stated that her encouragement came from a black woman who was in the black legislative caucus.

Many black women have been in Turner’s shoes. Likewise, many black women have been in the shoes of the supportive black legislator. When black women step up to run for public office like Turner, she will encounter “unspoken” hurdles.  She is expected to cross them with ease.  It is not easy.

“You know who your friends are when you’re going through a struggle, and this race has been a struggle,” Turner said in her concession speech after losing her bid for Ohio Secretary of State.

For black women, proactively moving towards advancement often times are a struggle.  It comes with resistance. It comes with obstacles. It comes with hurt. Ask yourself, are you her friend?

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author, and public servant. www.emergingfree.com

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