Black History Month
Yesterday marked the start of Black History Month, and to celebrate we decided to look at how things have changed since 1968 (when most scholars agree the second phase of the Civil Rights movement ended). One way of looking at the question is to see how representative government is of African Americans today compared with then.
In 1968, the United States population was 11.1% African American, compared to 12.9% today. But in terms of representation in Congress, African Americans made up a mere 1.4% of the House and 1% of the Senate in 1968. In the subsequent 44 years, representation has improved significantly in the House, where it increased to 9.9%, while actually worsening in the Senate, where there is currently not a single African-American Senator. The chart below shows representativeness of Congress then and now:
In short, the results when looking at the legislative branch are mixed, with the racial make-up of the Senate being extremely homogenous, and the House being much more diverse.
But what about the other branches of government? In 1968, there were eight white men on the Supreme Court and one African American man. Today, the Court is far more diverse, with five white men, two white women, one African American man, and one Hispanic woman. Interestingly, the Hispanic woman and one of the white women were appointed by the first African American president in the history of the United States, Barack Obama.
Clearly, America has come a long way in opening up the branches of government to minority representation over the past 44 years. At the same time, one look at the Senate shows just how far we have left to go.