Celebrating diversity on The Hill

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The 117th Congress is the most ethnically and racially diverse in history, drawing from lawmakers who come from a wide range of backgrounds.

Nearly a quarter of the 535 members of the House and Senate are racial or ethnic minorities.

With each election in recent years, Congress continues to become more diverse. For the past decade, a record number of minorities has been elected in each succeeding election.

More than 120 lawmakers identify as Black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian/Pacific islander, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

That’s nearly double the number of minority members who were in Congress 20 years ago.

Among the many current minority members:

Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty

The Ohio lawmaker is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She’s been active over the years in pressing companies to make sure they are hiring from a diverse pool of people. “Diversity inclusion is very important to me, and it’s personal for me, ” she says. She’s also sought police reform and recently spoke out after the high-profile trial of a former police officer in Minneapolis. “Justice matters, transparency matters,” she says. Beatty has served in Congress since 2013.

Photo credit: https://beatty.house.gov/

California Congresswoman Judy Chu

Chu is the first Chinese-American to be elected to Congress.  She’s drawn on her personal experiences to become a prominent voice in drawing attention to prejudice against Asian-Americans. “Our nation’s leaders must send a clear message that we reject bigotry and hate,” she says. Chu says society needs to respect diversity and also must work to come together. Chu has served in Congress since 2009 and represents California’s 27th District, which includes Pasadena, home of the Rose Bowl.

Photo credit: https://chu.house.gov/

Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth

Duckworth is the first Thai-American elected to Congress. She was a military helicopter pilot in Iraq, where she lost her legs during combat. She’s a fierce defender of Asian-Americans and notes that she’s dealt with lots of indignities herself. “While wearing the uniform of this nation with her flag on my shoulder, (I’ve) been asked, ‘where are you from, really?’” Duckworth was among the key lawmakers who pressed for anti-hate crime legislation involving Asian-Americans, which was signed into law by President Biden after being passed by Congress.

Photo credit: https://www.duckworth.senate.gov/

Kansas Congresswoman Sharice Davids

The Kansas lawmaker is one of the first two Native Americans to be elected to Congress. She was raised by a single mother and worked her way through college. Davids says she never wants to forget her roots. “I always have felt as though one of my biggest responsibilities as a representative for the community that I represent is to listen,” she says. “That means listening to people who are the most affected by injustices.”  Davids was elected to Congress in 2018.

Photo credit: https://davids.house.gov/

New York Congressman Antonio Delgado

The New York lawmaker says this is a unique time. “We have been through quite a bit of late, on the issue of race,” he says. Delgado at one point worked in the music industry, to empower young people through hip-hop. He says it’s important to address critical issues related to blacks and criminal justice. “There’s a collective energy on the question of race and it’s important in this moment, right now, to tap into that energy.” Delgado held 50 town halls during his first term.

Photo credit: https://delgado.house.gov/

Florida Congressman Byron Donalds

Donalds is a relatively new member of Congress from Florida. But his roots are in the northeast, where he was raised by a hard-working, single mother. “I grew up in the inner-city of Brooklyn, New York and my mother wanted the same thing that so many parents want for their children – just an opportunity to succeed from education,” he says. Donalds worked in private business before coming to Washington and has been active on a wide range of education issues, including school choice.

Photo credit: https://donalds.house.gov/

 

Ohio Congressman Anthony Gonzalez

The Ohio lawmaker has a unique background, having played football in the NFL. His father left Fidel Castro’s Cuba to come to the U.S. His upbringing taught him to value hard work and he doesn’t like the political games often played in Washington. “My constituents value a Congress that puts the people over the politics.” Gonzalez serves on the Financial Services Committee, and is vice chair of the Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion

Photo credit: congress.gov

New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries

Jeffries is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus and has been vocal on a wide range of issues that touch on race and diversity. He’s a strong supporter of social justice and notes his family has felt the impact of sensitive issues involving police and Black Americans. “I had to have ‘the talk,’ with my two sons,” he notes, referring to discussions Black parents often have with their children about how to avoid any confrontations or problems during traffic stops. Jeffries serves on the Judiciary Committee.

Photo credit: https://jeffries.house.gov/

Michigan Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

First elected to Michigan’s 14th District in 2004, Lawrence grew up on the east side of Detroit, which is part of the area she represents. Lawrence is keenly aware of congressional history and says she’s proud to be part of the most diverse Congress to date. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power,” she says. Lawrence is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and says it’s important for her and others to stand up against injustice, wherever it occurs.

New York Congresswoman Grace Meng

Meng is the first and only Asian-American member of Congress from New York. She’s been speaking out against hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, which have risen during the pandemic. “Approximately 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents have been reported since the start of the pandemic,” she says. “We cannot stay silent, nor be silenced anymore.” Meng was one of the prominent voices for the anti-hate crime legislation that recently passed in Congress.

Photo credit: https://meng.house.gov/

California Senator Alex Padilla

Padilla is California’s first Latino senator and the son of parents who came to the United States from Mexico. “My family’s journey is central to my public service,” he says. Padilla says their hard work ethic has stayed with him, as he tries to help improve the lives of his constituents. “Our family has gone from being the immigrant cooks and house cleaners, to serving in the United States Senate. Padilla replaced former Sen. Kamala Harris, after she became vice president.

Photo credit: https://www.padilla.senate.gov/

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott

Scott is the only Black Republican in the Senate and he’s had a prominent role in negotiations on police reform legislation. He says he knows what it’s like to be pulled over by police as a Black man, noting he was once followed by a police car for several blocks, with little indication as to why. “I was looking for some rational reason for him to stop me.” The GOP lawmaker has been in talks with Democrats, as they try to find common ground on police reform measures. Scott gave the GOP response to President Biden’s first joint address to Congress.

Photo credit: https://www.senate.gov/

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema

The Arizona lawmaker says there’s pressure in Washington “to spend time on every scandal, every Tweet.” The Senate’s only openly bisexual member has carved out a unique path, working on issues important to her, such as advocating for military veterans. Sinema says it’s important to get out of  “comfort zones to build coalitions and get things done.” She has the distinction of being one of two active members of Congress to complete a triathlon competition.

Photo credit: https://www.sinema.senate.go

California Congressman Mark Takano

Takano is the first openly gay Asian America congressman. His parents were sent to a Japanese internment camp in the U.S. during WWII. Given the rise in threats against Asian-Americans during the pandemic, he’s called on political leaders to set a good example, so people aren’t prompted to carry out hate crimes. “If you have destabilizing leaders, they can also destabilize those are vulnerable, in terms of their mental stability, to act out,” he says. Takano has been active on military veterans’ issues, as the chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Photo credit: https://takano.house.gov/

Texas Congressman Marc Veasey

Veasey represents a Texas district that’s majority Black and Latino. He’s sensitive to immigration issues, knowing how profoundly they impact people in his state. “In the community people are concerned about being separated from their loved ones or being deported,” he says. Veasey remains hopeful Congress can eventually pass immigration reform. The congressman is also active in addressing discrimination issues affecting voters.

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/RepVeasey

 

Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock

Warnock says he is “a proud son of the great state of Georgia.” He was elected in 2020 in a special election and is still the minister at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his first sermon. Warnock says his lifelong experiences in Georgia have shaped him and prepared him for this moment in history. “My roots go down deep,” he says of the Peach State. “A living example and embodiment of its history and hope, of its pain and promise.”

Photo credit: https://www.senate.gov/

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