Saturday, May 15, 2021
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RACIAL AND GENDER DIVERSITY IN THE 117TH CONGRESS

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Photo by Franmarie Metzler.

With 2020 over and the results of the American federal election season finalized, our Congressional branch of government can soon begin the legislative process of enacting laws. After a year of managing through a deadly pandemic, highlighting racial injustice within our country, and paying close attention to the Presidential election we must begin to focus on our forthcoming. We can often predict how issues will unfold in the New Year by taking a detailed look at who is currently sitting in government, specifically in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Although the issues highlighted and faced in 2020 are far from being resolved, it’s important to start each year with a bright outlook towards the future. 

So let’s begin 2021 by commenting on something more positive: the progressive diversity strides gained in the new 117th United States Congress.

In the United States, our electoral system of voting happens every few years depending on the sector of government; the House every two years, the Senate every six, and the presidency every four. 2020 was significant as all elected positions in the Executive and Legislative branches were being voted on the ballot.

Although the topic of Diversity in Congress focuses only on the advancement of various ethnicities made within the Legislative branch, it is important to note that our first woman of color vice president was elected, Vice President Kamala Harris. A woman of color holding this position in our Executive branch is monumental. It will change how diversity is both gained and viewed for decades to come.

RACIAL AND GENDER DIVERSITY IN THE HOUSE

As for our Congressional sectors, great strides of intersectionality have been gained this year. Within the House, 59 freshmen representatives have been obtained. Of these, 27 of them are women and 19 of them are people of color (POC), 8 are women of color (WOC).

In total, the Democratic party now has 89 women and 107 ethnic and racial minorities (43 are WOC) serving in the House. Juxtaposed to the Republican party who now has 29 women in the House as well as 20 POC (5 are WOC) Although the Republican party is behind their more liberal counterpart in terms of diversity, they continue to become more ethnically inclusive each year.

RACIAL AND GENDER DIVERSITY IN THE SENATE

Although it has become more difficult to institute ethnic diversity within the Senate, due to its elections occurring every six years as well as the lack of a re-election limit, this year set some progressive records that will hopefully continue to follow in the future. Most notably, in Deleware’s First State Senate District, our first transgender senator was elected, Senator Sarah McBride (D-DE). Georgia also elected its first African American senator, Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA).

In total, our Congressional Senate now has 24 senators who are women as well as 11 people of color (3 are women of color).

DIVERSITY IN THE 116TH CONGRESS

Compared to the inauguration of past Freshman Congress members, diversity in both the House and Senate increased by 3.14 percent this year. Although our current Congress seems to be following the trend of growth in its multiculturalism, the lack of representative diversity gained in 2020 contrasted to other years is likely due to mandates passed and comments made by our former president. Unfortunately, his actions have continued to enable prejudice towards ethnic minorities in America.

Our 116th House of Representatives included 102 women and 116 POC (43 being WOC) out of a total of 435 representatives. Our Senate portrayed 25 senators who were women and 10 senators who were ethnic minorities (4 being women of color) out of a total of 100 senators.

A government that has overrepresented privileged ethnic, financial, and gendered populations within a community is not representative of a nation. Government must be representative of the people. To further develop an America that is filled with equality, Americans must push towards advocating for more women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ portrayal in Congress. It is impossible to make legislation that is all-encompassing if our legislative branch is unaware of how its lack of inclusivity affects populations of people they do not see.

Photo by Erin Scott.