America Is So Post-Racial, We Don’t Even Need Black People in Our Senate

Florida Senate candidate Kendrick Meek, who lost in yesterday’s election.

By now, many of you have heard the bad news that yesterday’s elections didn’t go so well for Democrats. Though they were able to hold onto control of the Senate, Republicans took the House and expanded their presence in the Senate.

While zillions of news outlets will be offering their analysis of the election results, I wanted to raise awareness around the rather unbelievable fact that the next United States Senate will not have ONE African-American in its ranks.

As reported by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, all three black Senate candidates, Kendrick Meek (D-FL), Alvin Greene (D-SC) and Mike Thurmond (D-GA) have lost their bids. The only incumbent black senator, Roland Burris (D-IL), is retiring.

Only six black senators have served including Burris: three Republicans and three Democrats, Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL), Edward Brooke (R-MA), Blanche K. Bruce (R-MS), Hiram Revels (R-MS before 1874, D-MS after 1874) and current President Barack Obama (D-IL).

There have been 118 voting members of Congress who are African-American. This year the GOP has 14 African-Americans on the ballot while there were 41 African-American Democrats in Congress of which most ran in majority black districts. The largest number of black Republicans in Congress since Reconstruction has been a whopping two.

In a tidbit of good news, Alabama sent its first African-American woman to Congress with the election of Terri Sewell in the state’s 7th district. She is a Democrat. (Hooray!) Also, more LGBT candidates than ever before were elected yesterday.

On the flip side, insurance company owner Tim Scott earned a comfortable win in his district, becoming the first black Republican congressman from South Carolina since Reconstruction. I’m sure Michael Steele is rejoicing.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • Gretel

    Not to be too picky, but “lost their seats” makes it seem as though Greene, Meek, and Thurmond are incumbent senators. They just lost their elections. Alvin Greene’s candidacy is truly bizarre–he seems like a foil who had no chance of winning in the first place. Kendrick Meek’s chances of winning were destroyed by Charlie Christ–and also Bill Clinton begging him to drop out of the race.

    I really wonder what is going on with the Democratic Party and their inability to support candidates of color. They seem to have just given up. It’s infuriating.

    • Lori

      Thanks Gretel, I clarified the language!

  • April Streich

    My former Congressional rep, Keith Ellison, won another term, easily. Oh, how I miss the liberal Minneapolis. Now I’m stuck with asshat Erik Paulsen as my current rep.

  • Shannon Drury

    April beat me to the punch on the recognition for MY rep (I would never ever leave my cozy liberal Minneapolis bubble). But man oh man, are those some frightening numbers up there. I guess this is what the Teabags meant when the referred to “returning” to the Constitution, when none but white males were allowed to vote, much less serve in federal office.

    • Jay

      Ugh, jealous. I don’t quite make the Minneapolis district line; my district just confirmed MY rep- Michele Bachmann. (Whyyyyy?? Liberal Minnesota, where have you gone?) Go, Sixth District! [/sarcasm] She’s on CNN spouting her nonsense at this very moment, actually.

      And, no black senators… I just… it’s like my brain just can’t accept it. None? At all? How can that be? According to the internet, we’ve had 2167 senators total since the formation of the United States. That’s not even a third of one percent of senators that have been black. Seriously, America, what gives?

  • Rik Little

    The race thing is truly sad. Al Green should have won. But I think people forget that in Boehner we will have an historic first afro-american speaker of the house and that is heartening.

  • Rudy Duriez

    Yet, ironically, “post-racial” Republicans manage to get the first latina governor elected (New Mexico) and give Nevada its first latino governor (Brian Sandoval). Not to mention the first Indian American female governor in South Carolina and the nation. Though we are far from a post-racial society, I think Republicans are stepping out of their shell when it comes to choosing their candidates even if their politics continue to be out of touch with most minorities and women.

    As progressives, many of us assume that we have a strong hold of the ‘minority vote’, when most minorities (across the spectrum) are socially and culturally conservative, values that align much better with GOP. The GOPs problem is that it has done close to nothing to gain the trust of these voters by demoralizing the working poor and clinging to xenophobic stances on immigration. Until then these Americans will be voting democratic, maybe only because they feel there is no other choice. Unless we strengthen our coalitions and empower them to run for Congress and various boards, Democrats will continue to fail them along with Republicans. =/

  • v

    The thing is, I truly believe left wing organisations are holding people of colour back because it gives them power. We will be truly post racial when we realise that all “races” are the same and that we are all equal. I play dungeons and dragons which is laughably geeky, but i was utterly ecstatic when choosing a race that the write up for humans was “humans differ greatly in hair colour, skin colour and eye colour and etc”. yeah. We do. But by highlighting these differences we achieve nothing, and I adore the geek mentality we’re all the same which we are!

    • davenj

      “We will be truly post racial when we realise that all “races” are the same and that we are all equal.”

      Not necessarily. Even if all of that scientific racism, cultural prejudice, and whatnot goes out the window it still doesn’t change the fact that it happened. Even if everyone can agree that race is socially constructed and functionally useless in defining a person aside from telling us what they look like, that won’t change the fact that a whole lot of other things were defined (and still are defined) by race.

      Highlighting racial differences merely for the sake of it doesn’t really benefit folks, but highlighting racial differences to illustrate that racism still exists, or that the effects of racism still exist, is an important exercise.

      Why else would there be no African American senators, if not for racism or the effects of racism? If humans differ greatly, but these differences don’t fundamentally mean much, then why are there so few African Americans (and Latin Americans, and Asian Americans, and…) in public office?

  • Jennie

    I’ve been lurking on the site for a while, but this post made me join up, because I feel the need to comment. While it is disappointing to see the other two Senate candidates lose their race, Alvin Greene was one I was glad to vote down on November 2 when I went to the polls. (I wrote in a candidate for the first time.)

    As a voting citizen of South Carolina, I must wholeheartedly disagree with the comment made earlier about Greene. He did not deserve to win. He didn’t even deserve to run. I see him as a disgrace to South Carolina, in much the same way Mark Sanford and Joe Wilson are. I also perceive Jim DeMint to be just as bad. Alvin Greene was involuntarily discharged from the US Army, and by his own statements, it seems to be a dishonorable one, and is facing felony obscenity charges because of a female USC student’s claims that he harassed her (showed up at her dorm room several times without being invited) and showed her pornographic images.

    Neither of them would have been in anyway beneficial to my home state in the Senate, and I am very sad that DeMint won, yet I would take him over Greene any day.