By Rohith Rao
The United States has always been a global melting pot of people from various cultural, religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds. However, this is hardly reflected in the nation’s politics with minorities being historically underrepresented. The disproportionate presence of white non-Hispanic men in Congress, State Legislatures and most elected offices could be a reason for people feeling that their government doesn’t truly reflect their beliefs and opinions.
The Racial Makeup of Congress
According to a study by Pew Research Centre, the current 115th United States Congress boasts the most diverse group of representatives in the nation’s history. However, they still account for only 19 percent of the representatives in House and Senate combined. By comparison, racial minorities make up 38 percent of the general population. The following graph shows the racial makeup of Congress in the 21st century, and the steady growth in the number of representative who identify as a non-white minority. The second graph shows us the slow decline of white politicians’ share of Congress, noticeably reducing only after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Why the lack of diversity?
One of the primary reasons for the severe lack of minority candidates is the very fact that people from non-white minority groups hardly run as candidates even during primaries. While this is true, mainstream politics and the media also don’t highlight the severe shortage of candidates as an issue. The historical trend of poor minority political representation coupled with racially driven gerrymandering further aggravates the issue.
Things are Changing
Even though Congress does not appropriately reflect the diversity of the nation itself, things are changing quite rapidly. The 115th U.S. Congress is not only the most diverse, but also has the highest number of new members, 20 of 59, identifying as a racial minority. This is a considerable improvement from the 114th U.S. Congress that only had 11 of 71 new members identifying as a minority. While diversity is more reflective among Democratic candidates, Republicans are slowly getting there as well. Even American voters aren’t all that apprehensive about seeing a minority candidate elected to office. The 2018 midterms in particular is noted for the sharp increase in candidates of minority running for office. Even women, who only make up 20 percent of Congress, are making a splash this election cycle, particularly women of color.
A democracy cannot be truly representative unless it adequately reflects the various socio-economic and political backgrounds of its people. The same applies to race and ethnicity as well, since issues pertaining to a particular minority are best and most appropriately tackled by the minority group themselves. We might have had a black president, but that is far from enough. The Ten 100 Committee stands firmly in support of greater bipartisan racial and ethnic diversity in all of the country’s elected offices.