As Democrats pat themselves on the back for smashing the glass ceiling and nominating a woman for president, our political representatives are still far too white and male. In fact, despite great strides and the browning of America, Congress remains 80 percent white and 80 percent male. Along the way, there have been several people of color who’ve put their own cracks in the old boy’s system that seems to be less accepting of Black and female participants, but progress has been painfully slow.
While Clinton attempts to become the first female president in America’s 240-year history, there has only been one Black woman elected to the U.S. Senate: Carol Moseley Braun.
Moseley Braun, a Chicago native, faced her fair share of challenges to win election in 1992 and write her own name in the history books. Like many Black women in male-dominated spaces, Moseley Braun not only encountered sexism, but also dealt with racism too.
“Absolutely, I experienced both racism and sexism,” she told Jasmine Cannon, a graduate student filmmaker at Northwestern University, who interviewed Moseley Braun for a short film. “But you just keep one foot in front of the other, keep doing your best, [and] try not to get distracted.”
“I’ve never been anything other than a Black female, so I see the entire world through those set of experiences,” she added. “I hope that set of experiences allows me to give back to the world something unique and something different that it needs to have.”
Despite her place in history, many haven’t heard of the former Senator from Illinois. That’s just one reason Cannon choose to profile Moseley Braun.
“I was shocked by the number of my peers who had no knowledge of Carol Moseley Braun,” Cannon told EBONY.com. “I believe the impact Moseley Braun’s election to the Senate had on those who are racial and gender minorities should not be forgotten.”
Cannon continued, “Before there was Barack Obama as president or Hillary Clinton as a presidential nominee, there was Carol Moseley Braun,” she said. “I think there’s no doubt that Moseley Braun’s election was a symbol for hope, change and infinite possibilities. She has broken through ceilings as a Black person and as a woman, just as Clinton. Her unique voice was something that was needed in the Senate and something our nation still needs today.”
Despite losing her bid for reelection, and also a subsequent run to become Mayor of Chicago, Moseley Braun hopes her story will inspire others.
“That the community didn’t respond was hurtful to me, because I had expected my service would have earned me more support and respect,” she explained of her political losses. Still, she’s hopeful for the future. “There are some women who are frightened by the idea of women stepping out of the traditional role and do non-traditional things. I just say, ‘Go for it.’ That’s what I’ve always done.”
Britni Danielle is the Senior Digital Editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Catch her tweeting @BritniDWrites.