Cory Booker Increases Diversity in Congress by 0.2 Percent
With Cory Booker being sworn in as the new senator of New Jersey, diversity in Congress has increased by all of two-tenths of a percent and the Senate now has a grand total of two black senators. Booker is the first black senator to be elected to the senate since Barack Obama and, while increasing the representation of African-American’s in Congress, is a stark reminder of the lack of diversity that still remains at all levels of government.
Some on the right, like Matt Drudge of The Drudge Report, see Obama’s presidency as a sign of minorities taking over. In reality, one man does not a movement make. Consider the demographics. The population of the United States is 63.7 percent non-Hispanic white, 12.6 percent African-American, and 16.4 percent Hispanic, and 4.8 percent Asian. Females also outnumber males by about five million.
In the Senate, 20 percent of Senators are women, 2 percent are African-American, 3 percent are Hispanic, and 0 percent Asian. In the House, 18.9 percent of Representatives are women, 8 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic, and 5.6 percent Asian. Oh, and the current 113th Congress has been called the “most diverse in history.” The diversity is even more non-existent among the country’s 50 gubernatorial seats. There are five female governors (10 percent), one black governor (2 percent), and two Hispanic governors (4 percent).
As you can see, the only percentages of representatives that even comes close to the percentages of any group in the general population is the 5.6 percent of Asian representatives. Meanwhile, the most underrepresented group is women who make up more than 50 percent of the general population and less than 20 percent of Congress.
The worst part of the lack of diversity is how unrecognized it is. In a recent poll of college students, only 32.6 percent correctly answered there were two black senators currently serving in Congress. Thirty-four percent answered eight black senators and 23.6 percent answered 14 black senators. There haven’t even been that many black senators in the entire history of the United States. As Congress begins to mull issues like immigration reform, women’s rights, and voting rights, it’s important to remember just how unrepresented the groups most affected by those laws are.
(Image: Jamelle Bouie Photography)