By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Kamala’s Moment Belonged to All of Us
Dating myself, I remember one of the most successful and twisted advertising campaigns of all time. The concept was ingenious, use the feminist movement to sell women on one of the deadliest products ever made. “You’ve Come A Long Way Baby” is etched in the mind of persons of a certain generation. The marketing campaign for Phillip Morris Tobacco Company was created in 1968. The product was a slender and feminine looking cigarette that was intended to target women. The ads conveyed a sense of freedom, equality, and that women had arrived.
The United States recently marked the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which actually was intended to give women real parity with their male counterparts. In providing them access to the ballot box, you realize the devil is in the details and the framing or marketing of this narrative. I joined women all over the country in acknowledging this major milestone for women, as my sorority sister, Kamala Harris was nominated as the Vice-Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.
Yet, it was not lost on me that, Harris is only the second African American female to be elected to the U.S. Senate. In the 244-year history of this nation, we have only had 57 women ascend to this body of federal legislators. There have been roughly 2000 U.S. Senators in our country’s history. We cheered for Sen. Harris, through tear-stained eyes, understanding that yes, we’d come a long way, but the journey was nowhere near done.
As an African-American woman, I know the celebration of the 19th Amendment comes as a mixed bag. Although, the text states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any Taylorstate on account of sex”, it did not stop states from employing other shenanigans to stop the majority of women from voting. In 1920, it was generally accepted that white women were granted the right to vote. Those rights were not extended to women of color until more than 40 years later.
In thinking about Senator Harris’ path to this moment, I am reminded that Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, was the first woman elected to the U.S Senate in 1922. It would be 70 years before the first black woman would be elected to the upper house of the legislature in 1992. Carol Mosley Braun, who holds that title and hails from Illinois, was actually apart of the roll call of the states during the Democratic National Convention this year. I cheered when I saw Braun and reveled in Kamala’s accomplishment. Afterall, it was a culmination of the work of women long gone and from all walks of life. Her moment belonged to all of us!
The work to shatter glass ceilings is far from over. We are not blind or duped by empty promises of progress. We now know that the glossy ad campaign fawning freedom in the form of a cigarette, later contributed to the death of more women from lung cancer than even breast cancer. Freedom, equity, and equality are hard fought battles. They are not aspirational images or slogans. Virginia wasn’t slim, it was a bloated and dishonest attempt to ensnare women. We have come a long way, but baby the work is just getting started.