Last week, the Huffington Post published an article entitled “50 Women Who Made the 2012 Election,” highlighting amazing progressive women whose work helped put President Barack Obama over the top on election day. Compiled by a list of data and technology gurus, the list heavily sways towards digital organizers, and in an all too common fashion, most of which also happen to be white. It left us asking, when will this stop?
Recognizing the author of the article is a women of color, we don’t feel there was intention to leave anyone out. The Huffington Post has the discretion to recognize whoever it wants to, and the article in question isn’t the only and absolute list of all the women who played a major part in this past election. However, it did trigger many because not only does it highlight a consistent pattern of people of color being overlooked and underrepresented in media, but it also disregards the work of turning out community of colors, which won the election for President Obama.
Undoubtedly there will be some who believe we think these women shouldn’t be recognized, and we disagree. The women picked have achieved so much and their work has spoken for them. However, there were many women who made extremely game-changing contributions during the election, who also happen to be women of color and also happen to be left off this list. People like Angela Rye, Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Co-Founder of IMPACT. Under Angela’s leadership, the #VoteReady campaign reached millions of social media impressions by engaging members of Congress, celebrities and educating the public on restrictive voter ID laws and how to combat voter suppression efforts. Kristal High and the team at Politic365.com held a Civic Engagement Tour on HBCU campuses throughout the nation, registering voters and motivating young people to vote through the constant creation of new digital content and updates from around the country.
While recognizing that over a fourth of the list was women of color, we feel contextually it overlooks the crucial efforts to mobilize people of color by not recognizing women who were directly responsible for it. When there are reports like this one from the National Journal that speak to historic turnout numbers from African American communities, its startling there weren’t more African American women, like Stefanie Brown, African American Vote Director for the Obama Campaign, selected. Either the nominators were clueless of the impact people of color had during the election, or they completely overlooked the vast women of color who directly led those efforts.
Sadly, this issue is not confined to the article from the Huffington Post. Back in October, The Hill released its annual “25 Women to Watch” list, which was almost exclusively white. Although this is a travesty, we aren’t here to complain about the numbers, but rather the acknowledgement of the work being done on behalf of our communities. If the staff of a major daily publication on Capitol Hill can’t find talented women of color to recognize, then the message the readers consciously or subconsciously receive is that there aren’t any worth mentioning.
As media platforms, the Huffington Post and The Hill have a responsibility to accurately report the stories and images of what’s happening to all of its readers. It is no longer acceptable to try to put a veil over the public by inadequately recognizing people who organize and represent communities of colors that make huge political and electoral impact. By purposely selecting these groups of women and using their platforms to promote them, the Huffington Post and The Hill made a powerful statement that has historical implications. We’re guessing this wasn’t their intention, but we have to look at the impact of their decisions both in present and future context.
George Orwell once said, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” The reason we ultimately chose to respond to these pieces is because none of us can sit by and watch the world around us be inaccurately or incompletely portrayed to readers in the present or the future. As stewards of these media platforms, the editors of the Huffington Post and The Hill must be more careful in both how they choose and what they choose to promote. No longer can the narrative of African Americans, or Hispanics or Asian Americans who work in politics be intentionally or unintentionally ignored in these types selections. After all, we are “one nation.”
This article was written by Politic365 Contributor Quentin James and Waikinya Clanton. Quentin James is the National Director of the Sierra Student Coalition, the youth arm of the Sierra Club and a National Board Member for the NAACP and Headcount. You can follow him on twitter @QJames. Waikinya Clanton is the President of the Congressional Black Associates, the staff association for African Americans working on Capitol Hill. You can follow her on twitter @WJSClanton.