It turns out that there are no African Americans in the United States Senate. After the ouster of Roland Burris, who was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, blacks are completely left out of the demographic makeup of our Senate.
The loss of black presence in the Senate is yet another symptom of the massive loss in black political power resulting from last night's elections. The Congressional Black Caucus gave up a long list of valuable chairmanships as a result of Democratic losses. The shape of our nation's future and that of black America is going to be highly dependent on whether this trend continues or finds a way to get reversed.
There are two black Republicans joining the U.S. House of Representatives: Tim Scott of South Carolina and Allen West of Florida, who were both elected last night. There is a question of whether the Congressional Black Caucus will accept West and Scott into its fold. To date, the CBC hasn't issued a statement.
The presence of black Republicans in the House will open a Pandora's box for the CBC. For a long time now, we've decided that being black meant being Democratic and being poor, but the truth is that blackness can mean all things, with many of those values aligning more directly with political conservatism than anything else. So as we push to strengthen the black voice in public representation, we must remember that black leadership can take more forms than one.
One good thing about the midterm elections is that black voter turnout was relatively strong. Black voter turnout did drop to 10 percent from 13 percent in 2008, but relative to the midterm elections in 2006, there was a mild increase. Also, African Americans, while taking massive losses in this election, are beginning to evolve in their understanding of the political process. We are starting to feel that we are part of the engine that makes America's political body move forward.
Yes, the elections didn't turn out as many of us would have hoped, but there is actually more hope than we had in 2008. Let's keep on moving forward.
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Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.