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The “Race Faces” of Political Leadership – A Change is Coming

The “race faces” of political leadership are changing and becoming more diverse than ever before. I’ve often said in previous posts that politics is not my thing. But ever since New York City got its first Black mayor, then the United States of American elected its first Black president – twice – then the 2020 presidential election got us our first Black/Asian female vice president, I am excited! What sparked my excitement this time? Election Day in New York City, when the people of the city elected its second Black mayor!

I’m sure someone somewhere is reeling with the words, “say it isn’t so!!!!”

David Norman Dinkins was an American politician, lawyer, and author who served as the 106th Mayor of New York City from 1990 to 1993, becoming the first African American to hold the office.

On November 2, 2021, Eric Adams, former Police Officer, former Police Captain, and former state senator was elected New York City’s second Black mayor! Adams, who is currently Brooklyn’s borough president, will take the reins from Bill de Blasio, whose wife is Black, and they have two bi-racial children. (Although his family make-up may or may not be relevant to this post, I just thought I’d mention it).

The Run for Mayor of Washington D.C.

With yet another historic political victory, I began to research what’s going on in other cities, particularly where our current U.S. president resides, Washington, D. C.

The next Washington, D.C. mayoral election will take place on November 8, 2022. The incumbent Democrat is Muriel Elizabeth Bowser. Mayor Bowser is a Black American politician serving since 2015 as the eighth mayor of D.C. Recently, there was uncertainty among the people if she would run for office again. As to whether Bowser gave any thought to not seeking a third term, she said this: “I didn’t come close to not running”

On November 4, 2021, Mayor Bowser announced her campaign for a third term. Bowser will face competition from Robert C. White Jr. who announced his campaign three weeks ago. He is an At-Large Member of the Council of the District of Columbia and is Chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors. Robert is proudly part of a historical COG Board, the first all African American Board with all women Corporate Officers. He is also Chair of the Committee on Facilities and Procurement.

In addition, D.C. Ward 8 City Councilman, Trayvon White Sr., also Black, said he plans to run. Both men have been critical of Bowser’s handling of violent crime.

2021 Election Night Across Cities/States

People of color made history on election night in 2021, bringing diversity to leadership roles in some of America’s biggest cities, and in other states as well.

Boston, New York, Pittsburgh and Dearborn, Mich., were among the places that a majority of voters embraced minority candidates.

  • Michelle Wu is the first woman and person of color to be elected Boston’s mayor.
  • Cincinnati elects Aftab Pureval as its first Asian American mayor.
  • Abdullah Hammoud becomes the first Arab American and Muslim mayor of Dearborn, Mich.
  • Former high-ranking police officer Tyrone Garner will be the first Black mayor of Kansas City, Kan.
  • Bruce Harrell is elected mayor and is the first Asian American and the second Black person to lead Seattle.
  • Pittsburgh elects Ed Gainey, the city’s first Black mayor ever! The western Pennsylvania metropolis, which is 23% Black, largely favored the Democrat Ed Gainey over Republican challenger Tony Moreno.
  • Winsome Sears will be the first Black woman to serve as Virginia’s lieutenant governor. It’s the highest office a woman of color has won in Virginia’s history.
  • Alvin Bragg is Manhattan’s new district attorney, the first Black person to hold the job. A native of Harlem, Bragg who most recently was the chief deputy attorney general of New York State, will lead an office that’s currently pursuing an investigation into former President Donald Trump’s business practices.

In the political realm, although Black people and people of color have made gains in United States’ government positions, gaps still remain in political leadership. In any event, the gap isn’t as wide as it used to be. This movement of change represents another advance in the slow but steady progress Black Americans and people of color have made in recent decades in gaining a greater foothold in political leadership.

The Past is the Past

Looking back to 1965, there were no Black U.S. senators or governors, and only five members of the House of Representatives were Black!

According to a June 2020 Pew Research Center Survey, many Black Americans view this political representation as a potential catalyst for increased racial equality. Four in ten Black adults said that working to get more Black people elected to office would be a very effective tactic for groups striving to help Black Americans achieve equality. On the other hand, white adults are less likely to view this an effective way to bring increased equality. Only 23% said it would be effective. Surprise, surprise. It could be argued that only those who are affected by and experience the disparity of equality in America, have a better chance of inducing change when given the chance. As a person of color, I would say to those not of color that you must walk in my shoes to understand what my walk is like.

As we begin to see a rise in people of color elected to high-level positions politically, let’s not forget the mayoral elections that have been dominated by women as well. There are a lot of women who are more viable candidates running. Despite the liberal reputation of New York, the nation’s largest city is years behind other big cities like Chicago, Houston, Seattle, Atlanta, and Phoenix that have made women their chief executives.

Black women achieved a historic milestone as mayors of eight major American cities. Political analysts say the record number points to “the age of Black women in politics.”

Black female mayors lead eight of the 100 cities with the largest populations in the United States, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University. Their disparate communities stretch across both coasts, the Midwest, and the South, from Boston, San Francisco and Chicago to New Orleans, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. What’s more interesting is that some of their cities have large Black populations, but others do not. These women have forged a fellowship because of their relative scarcity and similar experiences of managing the countless issues of a big city as mayor, and in other governmental leadership positions that are shifting the political landscape.

Final Thoughts

The face of the political race is changing, and what we are seeing across our nation – as both men and women of color are elected to high level leadership positions in politics – is a great milestone in our history. This, I must say, is remarkable!

We can only begin to solve problems faced across our nation such as inequality, equity, homelessness, racism, and human rights, by electing state and local councilmembers, mayors, governors, senators, etc., that are unlike back in 1965. If not, we’ll continue to have a lack of representation of people of color in terms of political leadership that matters. As we evolve as a nation, let’s shift in the right direction that affects positive change. In my opinion, to achieve victory, the “race faces” of political leadership need to continue becoming more diverse, and we must always exercise our right to vote! Yes. I see a change coming!

June Coxson

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