‘It’s a new day’: Local politicians reflect on impact of minority women in politics

2020 Election

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Kamala Harris is making history as the first woman, first Black person, and first American of South Asian descent to be elected as Vice President of the United States.
8News hosted a round table with a panel of local politicians to discuss the historic moment and the impact of African American women in politics.

The panel included Virginia Senator and gubernatorial candidate Jennifer McClellan, recent Richmond mayoral candidate Alexsis Rodgers, and state Delegate Delores McQuinn. All three women are at different stages of their political careers, but agree black women can over be over-looked and underrepresented in the workforce, especially politics.

Watch the whole discussion here:

Delegate McQuinn who has dedicated her life to politics, also serving on Richmond City Council and the Richmond School Board, says millions of women were filled with hope and ‘seen’ for the first time when Harris delivered her victory speech on Saturday. Inspiring women across the nation, Harris took to the stage dressed in an ivory pant suit and stated, “While I maybe the first women in this office, I will not be the last”.

The Vice President-Elect is breaking barriers throughout the nation and is setting the example that the future for women and minorities is endless. Getting emotional, Senator McClellan said, “to look at my daughter and be able to say you belong and you never have to doubt where you belong is so empowering.”

8News Reporter Talya Cunningham posed the question to all three women, stating “With Kamala Harris making history–as somebody who looks like you, looks like me, and looks like millions of little girls out there how are you feeling or how would you describe how you’re feeling right now?”

Delegate McQuinn answered stating she’s extremely hopeful and shared the story when her granddaughter heard the news.

“My 7-year-old granddaughter was just tuned into the television and when she found out that Kamala Harris had won, the joy I saw in her face,” shared McQuinn. “She was like YES, YES, YES, and that was my sentiment–YES–it’s a new day. “

Senator McClellan says Harris as now vice president-elect marks a new day for women in politics who have had the strength to push through when historically told ‘no’.

“Black women were the last to get the right to vote, the last to be recognized and yet this country was literally built on our backs,” said Senator McClellan

Rodgers goes on to say that African American women are often made to feel like they aren’t good enough.

“Black women particularly are always told, regardless of what stage you are in your career that you’re not ready, that you still need a little more mentorship or a little more experience that you have to bring to the table,” Rodgers told 8News. “So when you do put yourself out there and start showing that you are actually qualified, experienced, and ready; they say well maybe this guy first and maybe we’ll come back to you.”

All three women believe politics is dominated by white males and although representation is slowly changing, minority women have to do more to be seen.

“Everyone is expecting you to fail,” said Senator McClellan. “You are not given the benefit of the doubt and you can not be mediocre.”

McClellan and McQuinn have both spent more than a decade in Virginia’s General Assembly and can recall countless times on the floor when they were dismissed and talked over by men. During the roundtable McClellan said some women are also not given the credit they deserve and reached over to McQuinn to giver her the ‘flowers’ she deserves.

“Our work is so often erased and men–particularly white men take credit for it,”said McClellan. “I’m going to brag on Delegate McQuinn because when the statues started coming down who was on TV and who was on the front page of the paper were not the two women who were responsible for it and that is Delores McQuinn and Senator Mamie Locke. They were the ones that put that legislation in that would allow localities to take down monuments down, they were the ones that fought on the House floor and Senate floor and yet when the moment came they did not get their flowers.”

Senator McClellan is the first woman in the Virginia House to be pregnant while in office. She explains that a majority of her male colleagues questioned her ability to be a politician and mother, constantly asking her if she plans to retire.

During the discussion 8News Reporter Talya Cunningham also asked about the viral moment during the VP debate when Harris told Pence–‘I’m speaking”- numerous times after being interrupted by the vice president. The women agreed that at that very moment Harris was every black woman in America tired of being dismissed, Senator McClellan saying “the man-splaining is so real”.

“I’m ten years into my career and I would say that we are all told to still wait and that we’re not ready or not enough,” said Rodgers. “But that’s just not true and I’m ready to get to work.”

These women agree Harris marks a new beginning for black women in politics and women nationwide who are being recognized for all they do.

“For the first time I think I really felt like America recognized me when she was elected,” said Delegate McQuinn.

Now that Harris is the vice president-elect, the women are looking forward to changing legislation and having the tough conversations to create change and break more barriers.

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