By: Stephen Vellecca
History was made in Virginia on Nov. 2.
Although you probably heard nothing about it.
This past election day saw many different candidates vying for countless different offices, including the governorship and lieutenant governorship of Virginia. The Virginia governor’s race had been heating up for many months, with Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat McAuliffe throwing jabs at one another in an attempt to come out on top.
Youngkin attacked McAuliffe, a former one-term governor of Virginia for ignoring the wishes of parents in regards to how Virginia schools operate; and McAuliffe accused Youngkin, a former businessman, of being a racist.
Political squabbles certainly are nothing new and do not qualify this election as a “historic” event. Yet, Youngkin and McAuliffe were not the only ones fighting for executive office. Virginia was also selecting a new lieutenant governor. Democrat Hala Ayala, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and Republican Winsome Sears, a former member of the House, sought to fill the position.
By the end of election night, the Republican ticket had triumphed, and Youngkin became the governor-elect of Virginia, and Sears the lieutenant governor-elect.
With her victory, according to the Washington Post, Winsome Sears became the first Black woman to be elected to statewide office in the state of Virginia.
Sears was born in Jamaica in 1964 and later immigrated to the U.S. in 1970 with practically nothing. She grew up in the Bronx before earning her bachelor’s in English and economics from the Old Dominion University, and later her master’s in organizational leadership from Regent University in Virginia. She also served in the Marines in the 1980s.
In her victory speech, she said the following to an ecstatic crowd:
“I’m telling you that what you are looking at is the American dream…when I joined the Marine Corps, I was still a Jamaican. But this country had done so much for me, I was willing, willing, to die for this country,”
“In case you haven’t noticed, I am Black. And I have been Black all my life, but that’s not what this is about.”
What we are going to do now is be about the business of the Commonwealth…We have things to tend to. We are going to fully fund our historically Black colleges and universities. We’re going to have safer neighborhoods, safer communities, and our children are going to get a good education.”
She takes office in January of 2022.
Her story and her election are nothing short of incredible and should serve as an inspiration and a source of faith for all, particularly those in the media and the political sphere who claim to have a desire to see more candidates of color elected. We expected the headlines to read about how Sears “made history,” for the pundits to gracefully share her story, for the politicians to warmly congratulate her on this achievement, for all to celebrate her as we are expected to do with other candidates who make history.
But that is not what happened.
Many chose to make fun of Sears and use their platforms to remind the people that despite Sears’ presence, Republicans are still racist. Such as one article from the Washington Post entitled “Winsome Sears’ election doesn’t absolve the GOP of racism.” And furthermore, the most attention she got was from a skit on Saturday Night Live, the weekend after the election.
Saturday Night Live usually does not shy away from politics and has in the past celebrated notable politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar; celebrating the significance of their actions. But for Winsome Sears, they chose to mock and use her. As Yahoo.com reported:
“During last weekend’s SNL episode, Michael Che joked that a campaign photo of the Jamaican immigrant and Marine veteran holding a long gun was evidence she was “attempting suicide by cop” – and suggested the imagery of a Black woman with a rifle could help convince the GOP to join the left in supporting gun control laws.
“This is a win for Democrats because nothing will get Republicans to support gun control faster than this picture,” Che said during his ‘Weekend Update’ segment alongside SNL player Colin Jost.”
This is seemingly contrary to everything those in politics, the media, and programs like ‘SNL’ have led us to believe. They have told us that we should celebrate historic candidates, including female candidates of color – and absolutely we should. But some appear to only claim this for candidates they agree with, leaving everyone else out.
But this is nothing new, we have seen this before. In the 2020 House elections, Republicans Young Kim and Michelle Steel became two of the first Korean-Americans to serve in the U.S. Congress. The coverage? Less than widespread or celebratory.
Nevertheless, we should celebrate those among us who seek to make history and use that position for good. One day, we as a whole nation will realize that political orientation is not as important as who the individual is and what they can do for us as a society.