Tag Archives: Representation

Women’s History Month 2013: Nancy Pelosi

25 Mar

Nancy-PelosiToday we honor and celebrate a powerful and effective leader who provides a great example for women everywhere. Nancy Pelosi was born in Baltimore in 1940 and has politics in her blood. She received a B.A. in political science from Trinity College, where she met her husband. They moved to New York and then to San Francisco, where she quickly established herself in local Democratic politics.

She entered national politics in 1987 when she was elected to the House of Representatives, a hand-picked successor to the outgoing Representative, Sala Burton. Although her district number has changed, she has held the seat for a quarter century, making her one of the most senior members of Congress. She quickly rose through the ranks, assuming various leadership positions, culminating in her term as the 60th Speaker of the House in 2003.

Known for her adroit collaborative skills and her indomitable spirit, she is considered one of the most effective Speakers in history. As Vice President Biden has observed

If you ever want a partner to get anything important done, call Nancy Pelosi.

That effectiveness was very threatening to the petulant old white boys club in the GOP, who have demonized her for decades. Pelosi is quite gracious about the personal impact, but very concerned about the larger message.

It didn’t bother me, I figured they thought I was effective and therefore they had to take me down. What does concern me about it is that women that we want to be involved in politics, women who have options to do other things and we say, ‘Come over here and do this!’ And they’re saying, ‘No, I don’t want to subject myself to that. Why would I do that? I have a great life, I have plenty of opportunities.’ So what I’ve said is that if you lower the role of money in politics and you increase the level of civility, you will have more women running for office, elected to office, and that would be a very wholesome thing for our country.

What a perfect observation! Sadly, we see both men and women vilifying our Nancy.  I am often caught off guard at women committing lateral oppressions and internalizing misogyny, but when they act on this internalized misogyny, they become hypocrites of the first degree.

Nancy Pelosi is the highest-ranking politician in U.S. history. Of the 200 nations in the world, 50 have had elected women leaders and 22 do today. Why are we so far behind? Even with a record number of women in the Senate, there are still only 20, perpetuating a male-dominated discourse and allowing the GOP War on Women to proceed as diatribe, even when it fails as policy.

Minority Leader Pelosi takes heart from the great diversity in the current Democratic caucus in the House, however. Laughing at the recent GOP rebranding efforts and outreach to women, she offers some simple advice.

I think respect would be a good place to start. We are fortunate in our House Democratic caucus — women, minorities, LGBT community members make up a majority of the caucus. We don’t need anybody to teach us how to speak to women, Hispanics, blacks, because that’s who we are. And not only do they have a seat at the table, they have a seat at the head of the table, because over half of our chairmen-to-be, our senior Democrats — people who would be chair if we were the majority — are women and minorities.

That’s a great place to start. Let’s hope her great example does inspire the next generation of women to enter politics and help keep positive change moving.  Let us hope that Pelosi keeps working to ensure that all voices are invited to the table of power and thus working to lift marginalization and oppression.

MLK Holiday 2013: A Conversation Around Race

21 Jan

martinlutherI’m glad that we have a National holiday honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  What troubles me is how far we have yet to go in the civil rights movement.  I hear people talking now about the March on the Mall in Washington, yet they don’t know the March was organized by the openly gay Bayard Rustin.  Hearing so many people purporting to have been present during King’s I Have a Dream speech, also leaves me a bit bothered. We like to pretend that we are not a nation continuing to struggle with racism; I have even heard people use the phrase “post-racist” society as though that was something real and already achieved.  Yet we have no further to look than the numbers.

Let us start with the Senate.  Of the 100 Senators currently serving, only one of them is African-American (and he was appointed to his current office).  Moving on to the House of Representatives (note the word Representatives), of the 435 civil servants (albeit 433 right now due to current vacancies), only 41 are African-American.  Of the 50 Governors only one is African-American. Of the nearly 8300 U.S. mayors, only about 650 are African American. This disproportionality in representation and leadership clearly speaks to how far we have yet to go.

As one can see the power structure is still fundamentally white, male, Christian, and heterosexual.  Whether we want to admit it or not, most people still benefit from institutionalized racism.  I am not saying most people are racist, in fact, I would assert that most people are not racist (save for the Tea Party), yet we have a mass of people who are the beneficiaries of racism.

I am grateful for the significant strides being made for civil rights and social justice, but let us acknowledge there is still much work to be done around people that are marginalized and how we treat people that are not part of the institutional power structure.  Dr. King’s voice of advocacy for civil rights has room for many others to join the choir and push back against how we “other” people and strip populations of their dignity–now is not the time to be satisfied:

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity…–I Have a Dream, Dr. King

TSM also wants to wish a heart felt congratulations to President Obama on his second inauguration! I hope everyone gets to see the amazing Myrlie Evers deliver the Invocation.  I also want to note that the openly gay  Latino Richard Blanco is the inaugural poet–nice choice.

Are We Represented?

19 May

So Many White Male Faces

America has the benefit of being a very diverse nation. That’s right Conservatives, I said benefit. But, when I think about the U.S. Congress, all that comes to mind are white men who fight hard to keep the status quo. That is a problem because they do not properly represent the diversity America has. When I researched minorities in congress and did some number crunching, this is what I found.

Congress

House

Senate

Delegates

Women

Democrat

49

12

3

Republican

24

5

0

African American

Democrat

39

0

2

Republican

2

0

0

Hispanic *

Democrat

17

1

0

Republican

7

1

0

Asian American

Democrat

7

2

2

Republican

1

0

0

Openly LGBT

Democrat

2

0

0

Republican

0

0

0

* Puerto Rico also has one Independent Hispanic delegate

So let’s compare. The U.S. Congress has 541 members: 100 Senators, 435 Representatives, and 6 non-voting Delegates in the House.

Comparison

U.S.

Congress

Difference

Women

51%

17%

-34%

African American

13%

8%

-5%

Hispanic

16%

5%

-11%

Asian American

5%

2%

-3%

Openly LGBT **

8%

0.30%

-8%

** This is a conservative estimate since there are no reliable figures.

When looking at the numbers, the disparities are all too clear.

1)    Women are greatly under-represented. Even within other minorities, women tend to be less than half the count. Men dominate whether white or not.

2)    No wonder the war on women has been so easily won time after time. Men are 83% of congress. Can you believe that?

3)    When looking at the percentages in congress and percentages of US population, you see that the percentages are divided by at least half or more.

4)    There are fewer Republican minorities than Democrats. A lot fewer.

I looked into this because I was curious to see the numbers. Looking at them, it is clear that things need to change.

So many are comfortable with the status quo and will do anything to keep it that way. Many people – like Mitt Romney – see diversity as bad, so they spread fear about it while at the same time denying that they are racist. This country is getting less white and less straight as the years go by, and some of us are ready for it and others are not. This year at the ballot box please vote for your best interests. Let’s give those white guys who have plagued Congress for years some colleagues who can challenge their outdated and anti-diversity views.

Submitted by TSM Contributor, James Queale

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