Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari, left, and House Minority Leader Karen Camper, right. (Photo: John Partipilo)
In an era of rising voter suppression, Black Democratic leaders discussed on Monday their roles as double minority legislators in Republican-majority states.
Black legislative leaders held a roundtable discussion as part of the Southern Legislative Conference, which is being held in Nashville this week.
Rep. Karen D. Camper of Memphis, Tennessee House Democratic Caucus leader and president of National Organization of Black Elected Legislative (NOBEL) Women, was joined by legislators from throughout the South as they recalled last year’s protests against voter suppression directed toward Black Americans.
The Black vote has been credited as being the driving national force that pushed Joe Biden into the presidency, and it was largely thanks to Black legislative power in key battleground states, such as Georgia. In response, conservative lawmakers have sought stricter voting laws, some of which were directed at communities of color.
Most recently, Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives fled the state in order to block action on a conservative voting measure sponsored by the Texas GOP.
Despite being minority Democratic leaders in the mostly conservative South, Black leaders said the protests that characterized 2020’s presidential election year showed the power wielded by minority groups.
“Black folks ain’t got no choice but to come together in order to survive this Jim Crow 2.0,” said Rep. Bobby DuBose from Florida.
“If our Democracy is going to be saved, it’s going to have to come from us because the reality is that we’ve faced voter suppression before. We’ve faced being underfunded in campaigns before. We can overcome these challenges,” said Rep. Billy Mitchell from Georgia.
Over the past year, it became clear that protests and politics could not be separated, said Sen. Tonya Anderson from Georgia.
“It takes both, because we can’t do this work alone,” she added. “Because the community knows we have their back and we know they have our back.”
The future now lies on capitalizing on the new generation’s interest in politics by pushing for equity, said Camper. When opportunities come to pass a bill, she added, Black lawmakers need to consider whether communities of color will also be able to benefit.
“It’s my constitution too, and I believe my people need to benefit from it just like anybody else,” she said.
The same goes for aiding the next generation into politics. Camper currently hosts a mentorship program where she introduces young women to legislative members of NOBEL Women, hoping to inspire the next generation of female politicians.
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