Making History – but what now?

By Team I RISE.

The midterms had one clear defined success and that was female representation, with a record number of women winning seats in the House. We also saw the election of the first two Muslim congresswomen, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and the first two Native American women in Congress, Sharice Davids for Kansas and Debra Haaland for New Mexico. These were only a few of the women who made US history.

This change led to the monumental achievement in the midterms, more than thirty five women of colour are now the faces of change in U.S. politics.This defining moment did not take place in a vacuum, it was through a long periodof raising awareness of these women – of their goals, aspirations and promises of how to bring about a greater change. Social media such as Instagram allows voters to follow these candidates, to almost go on a journey with them as these candidates regularly posted their day-to-day activities in the run up to the midterm elections. To be able to have a closer and somewhat personal look into the lives of these candidates is empowering as it allows voters to feel more confident in their choices of who to vote. Social media has yet again, shown its potential and power to influence the outcomes in the political and social sphere.

This means that knowledge of the wider world and connecting with people of different faiths and backgrounds has become easily accessible. This power of the social media phenomenon has played a crucial role in the awareness of these women of colour. As a woman of colour, myself, I did not know or find out about these women through conventional forms of news, rather it was through social media. Apps such as Instagram have provided a platform where voices of people of colour can be heard loud and clear and such platforms allow a community of like-minded people to come together to make a change.

However, along with the celebrations and excitement of this surge in female representatives in official positions, there also came pessimism and questions regarding how entirely revolutionary and immense is such a change in US politics? Can these women really turn around and alter America’s long history of institutionalised sexism and perhaps also racism? It is a common historical trend that progressive politicians (especially Democrats) are passionate and mindful when it comes to positively changing domestic issues within their own states yet the same cannot be said when it comes to foreign affairs. The same politicians very rarely embrace anti-imperialist positions. But then again, can we really expect those who entrench themselves within US politics to really hold these views when the foundation of America is based on imperialist ambitions and the only way the US knows how to maintain its global hegemonic power is through violent, foreign intervention.

It’s wonderful to finally see some melanin in official positions especially when they belong to women. However, it is crucial that, considering the history of democratic reformists,we do not instantly assume that this will bring about radical change. The very racist institutions of US governance remain intact and, until these are altered, very little radical change will come to materialise. We can just hope that these women embrace progressive politics nationally and internationally and play integral roles in putting pressure on changing some of the institutional problems that US is based upon.