At the recent She the People summit in San Francisco, hundreds of women clapped and cheered as the organization’s founder, Aimee Allison, ran through a list of women of color who she said are bringing excitement to the 2018 elections.
“It’s Stacey Abrams, who will be the first black woman governor in history, (in) Georgia," Allison said. "It’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who beat a 10-term Democrat in New York." The list went on.
Summit organizers billed the event as the first-ever gathering for women of color in politics. Allison said women of color are often among the most progressive in the country, yet are the least represented in office.
“Democracy was not built for us," she said. "But women of color for centuries have been part of expanding the definition of who matters and whose voice matters and how democracy functions.”
Yet, despite the work they do, Allison said women of color still have difficulty getting through primaries and being elected to office.
Tracie Stafford is running for Mayor of Elk Grove, near Sacramento. She said some people have negative perceptions about her just because she’s a black woman.
“I'm going to be difficult, that I am somehow not articulate or not intelligent," Stafford said. "And that's the worst when someone tells me, 'you are so intelligent.' They don't understand that that means the assumption was I wasn't. So not only is it painful, but it's insulting.”
Stafford said she’s faced racist attacks online and in person. The experience has been stressful and exhausting. But she said she feels called to run and to help her city grow.
Pam Harris felt her voice needed to be heard, too. As a lesbian of color Harris is running for Oakland City Council. She became involved with the state Democratic party after the 2016 election and met several elected officials.
“They're just normal people, like you and me, and yet they're making policy and they're bringing in a particular lens and a particular experience to a seat of power," Harris said. "People like me should have that opportunity, too.”
The most challenging part of her campaign, according to Harris, has been raising money. She said being a woman of color makes it that much more difficult.
“It is hard to get a call back sometimes. It’s hard to get people to believe in you, to come in early," Harris said. "Once you start gaining steam and traction people then want to get behind you. But breaking through is really hard.”
Harris said she feels like she’s gaining momentum in her race. And "She The People" founder Aimee Allison said so are women across the country.
“In places like Florida, Georgia, Texas and Arizona, these are places Trump won, when women of color are empowered, both as candidates, but as strategists and organizers, which is a key part of this, we can win," she said.
Long before Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, women were already mobilized. The recent allegations of sexual assault against him could throw that into high gear — and women candidates of color could be among those who benefit. A recent Quinnipiac poll found 81 percent of African-American voters and 65 percent of Hispanic voters opposed confirming Kavanaugh.