Women of Color Made Biden's First 100 Days | Opinion

To fully appreciate the significance of the first 100 days of the Biden presidency, we must understand the role women of color played in securing Joe Biden's election to the office—in shaping his policy agenda and in charting a progressive path for the Democratic Party and the political future of the nation. Two years ago, She the People made a provocative claim: The voice, issues and votes of women of color would and should shape the 2020 election. Now, we can say in all confidence that 100 days in, women of color are powering the Biden agenda.

We made this bold claim in 2019, when She the People hosted the first-ever presidential forum centered on women of color and our issues. The major presidential primary candidates joined our Texas event, including now Vice President Kamala Harris. Joe Biden announced his candidacy the day after our forum. The event marked the beginning of a wave in which women of color voters would eventually deliver Democrats the White House and the Senate. Women of color ushered in a new political landscape and enabled every victory we've seen in the first 100 days.

By almost every account, the Biden administration has put in place policies and personnel that are rebuilding and recasting the positive, progressive impact of the American government in securing the well-being of the nation. We see this in Biden charging Vice President Harris to lead the efforts on immigration reform and her vocal support for solutions to the Black maternal health crisis. There were executive orders that protected transgender students and established the Gender Policy Council with a particular focus on women of color. A historic number of women of color have been hired and appointed to the Biden administration.

Deb Haaland is yet again making history as the first Native American woman to join the Cabinet as secretary of the Interior. Susan Rice leads the Domestic Policy Council ensuring racial justice is reflected in policies and practices across departments. Vanita Gupta is the nation's new associate attorney general, bringing a long history of civil rights litigation and leadership. Women of color judges make up the majority of Biden's first slate of judicial nominees, including the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson, a favorite for the next Supreme Court appointment. Kristen Clarke, a powerhouse advocate with a long history of fighting for women of color and marginalized communities, was nominated for assistant attorney general for civil rights. Many of the women of color joining the Biden administration faced challenges, even smears, from Republicans who want to stop the momentum. But 100 days in, the ball keeps rolling.

This influence of women of color extends beyond the work of the administration. Women of color are running as leading candidates in this year's elections. Two mayors join the growing ranks of Black women leading major cities: Kim Janey in Boston and Tishaura Jones in St. Louis. Janey, who was appointed and is now running for reelection later this year, will face women of color candidates like Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell. In Virginia, voters will see two Black women on the primary ballot for governor—Jennifer McClellan and Jennifer Carroll Foy—with the chance to elect the nation's first Black female governor in the fall. In North Carolina, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina Cheri Beasley just threw her hat in that open Senate race. Her candidacy, as well as a potential bid by former astronaut Joan Higginbotham, may be the nation's best chance to elect a Black woman to the Senate, a notable representation gap in the chamber since Vice President Harris' departure.

White House
An American flag flies over the south façade of the White House. Robert Alexander/Getty Images

These seismic shifts in governance and candidacies are not simply about representation. The standard we established in 2020 and going forward is that we are leading the vanguard in establishing a multiracial democracy that insists on racial, gender and economic justice. Women of color are not a monolith.

Republicans who recognize the power and potential of women of color leadership are co-opting it, supporting and promoting women who oppose a progressive agenda. Rep. Young Kim—one of the first three Korean American women elected to congress—is building a brand on reforming the Republican Party, criticizing extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene and yet still voting against bills like the Equality Act that would expand protections for queer and trans women of color. And Rep. Kim is not alone—33 women of color ran for Congress as Republicans, including Stephanie Bice, who became the first Iranian American elected to Congress.

Democrats can lose women of color's support just as easily as they won it. As we look beyond the first 100 days to the years ahead, the Biden administration and elected leadership must pass policy that offers substantial, material changes to our lives, like raising the minimum wage, progressive immigration reform, expanding health care coverage, tackling student debt and addressing police violence.

She the People organized our first presidential forum because we knew that Democrats needed to formally recognize our nation's changing demographic and directly address the realities facing women of color across the country. The landscape is different now, because we made it so, and to keep winning in the future, our playbook needs to be different too. Now is the time to capitalize on this moment through bold leadership, and if the past two years have taught us anything, it's that we are ready for the challenge.

Aimee Allison is founder and president of She the People, a national network of women of color in politics. She is a columnist for Newsweek.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.