The Brown Girls Guide to Politics is proud to partner with the State Innovation Exchange’s (SiX) Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council and Democracy Project to bring you a spotlight on six women of color state legislators who navigated the unprecedented influx of racist, anti-democratic, anti-abortion, and anti-transgender legislation introduced this year.
Today, we are spotlighting State Representative Jasmine Clark (Georgia).
What was the moment that made you fall in love with politics?
I do not know if I have actually ever “fallen in love” with politics. I got into politics out of a sense of duty and while I do appreciate being able to represent my constituency and serve my community, I do not “love” politics.
What made you decide to run for office?
I got into politics during a time where the administration in Washington and Georgia were very anti-science about some very important topics. I decided that we needed to have some science voices represented at the table so I decided to put my name on the ballot and ran on a platform of being the science voice in the Georgia legislature.
This year we saw an unprecedented number of racist, anti-democratic, anti-abortion, and anti-transgender bills introduced. How will these bills potentially impact your state?
Immensely. These bills impact all states. It impacts people’s everyday lives. It impacts the businesses that will come to the state or stay in the state. Allowing racism to continue to be codified in our statutes is a dereliction of duty to the people who live in Georgia. Anti-democratic bills like the Jim Crow 2.0 voter suppression bill (SB 202) passed this year are an attack on democracy and will have overwhelming effects on the state for a long time to come if they are not stopped. And while abortion is still legal in Georgia, our state has a long way to go to ensure that all people in our state have bodily autonomy and the ability to make healthcare decisions without the politicians butting in. The anti-trans bills are another attack on a very vulnerable population that is unpopular and unfair to the people of Georgia. Our state and the people who propose these unscientific bills are bullies, attacking children. It is unconscionable that they are okay with treating children this way.
What policies, issues, or conversations are you most proud of advancing this legislative session?
I have always been a strong advocate for voting rights and continued to be a loud voice during the SB 202 debate. While the bill did pass, it did not pass without a strong front from myself and many of my colleagues. And we will continue to fight undemocratic bills like SB 202 whenever and however we can.
What were your biggest lessons learned as a state legislator this year?
Challenging privilege and standing up for truth can be dangerous, but it is necessary!
Why is it so critical, now more than ever, for women of color to get involved in politics and stand up for reproductive freedom and democracy?
We need women of color in all levels of government to represent the interest of women and Black women, and Black people. Having those seats at the table requires them to HEAR us, even if they won’t listen.
This past March SiX and NOBEL Women released a report entitled No Democracy Without Black Women, highlighting the underrepresentation of Black Women in state legislatures. How can we move Black women’s voices to be elevated in state legislatures?
Support Black women candidates and encourage Black women to run, knowing that they will have the support. It is often harder for Black women to get into these spaces, especially if they do not have the networks that will allow them to successfully fundraise. This can be discouraging for political newcomers who would make great leaders, but who do not have the political “connections” to feel confident that they will be successful.
Even though women of color are leading these fights, we know that this work is not BIPOC women’s work alone and that it’s not “our” responsibility to fix the problem, what advice would you give to those looking to advance democracy and reproductive freedom?
Keep fighting even when the fight looks hopeless. You won’t win every time, but you will win sometimes, and that is important and it matters. The change will not happen overnight. We have been fighting these battles for decades and will likely be fighting them decades more. It takes time, energy, and resilience to climb a mountain, but it can be done, one step at a time.