Representative Sharice Davids (a Democrat from Kansas’ 3rd district) was sworn in amongst the most diverse class in Congressional history, The 116th Congress is comprised of a record 125 women who bring their diverse backgrounds and unique life experiences with them to Washington. In this new Congressional era, Davids is the perfect example of how authenticity can become valuable currency in government.
Raised by a single mother and Army vet, Davids grew up in Kansas and is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a Native American people from Wisconsin. She attended Johnson County Community College before earning her bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Missouri—Kansas City, eventually going on to Cornell Law School.
“I think that the thing people are really interested in right now is authenticity,” Davids said in an interview with NBC News. “I don’t always run around talking about every aspect of my life, but I never run away from it.”
Community college is not the traditional route to Congress, giving Davids a unique insight into the experience of college students today, where community college has become an increasingly popular and affordable alternative to jumping straight into an expensive, four-year degree.
Davids has gained the most notoriety for being one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, along with Deb Haaland from New Mexico’s 1st district. She is also the first openly gay member of Kansas’ Congressional delegation.
Davids used her law training to work for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in community and economic development. In 2016, she was a White House Fellow under the Obama administration in the Department of Transportation.
In addition to her slew of other unique experiences, Davids is a former professional MMA fighter, a skill that could prove handy in Congress (you never know, okay).
Davids and other newly-minted members of Congress (Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Deb Haaland) are proving that diversity makes government stronger, and enhances its ability to accurately represent and work for the American people.
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I am so honored to be a part of this time in history when so many new voices are being included in our national discussion. It will be a special privilege to serve alongside @deb4congressnm . I am inspired by the incredible work she has done for her community and am grateful for her friendship and support.
Kansas’ 3rd district includes parts of the Kansas City metropolitan area, resulting in a swing district where Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but one that Republican Kevin Yoder represented before Davids.
“The fact that I am Native American, openly-lesbian, that I don’t come from a family with any money, that I was raised by a single mom,” Davids said. “It is not uncommon to have some of the lived experiences that I have, but what is uncommon is to see those experiences in decision-making positions.”
As detailed by Caterina Bulgarella for Forbes, diversity is a win for Congress, where a range of perspectives and experiences can potentially raise the quality of ethics and decision-making. “It is this deeper level of diversity–what science calls “cognitive diversity”–that may help Congress address a wider set of concerns and successfully grapple with difficult decision-making processes.
Still, Bulgarella cautions that diversity in the Democratic Congressional caucus is not an instant recipe for success. Democrats must first “build a climate of genuine trust and openness within their larger and more diverse group,” she writes. “Second, all members within the Democratic caucus must remain engaged as they understand and make sense of each other’s views and perspectives.”
For so long, Congress hasn’t looked like the rest of America. Even today, 90 percent of the Republican caucus is still white men. The story is different on the Democratic side, where, as Philip Bump reporting for the Washington Post put it, “If you run into a white man on the House floor next year, there’s a 2-to-1 chance he’ll be a Republican. If you run into a woman, there’s a 7-to-1 chance she’s a Democrat. If you run into a person of color, there’s a 10-to-1 chance that representative is a Democrat.”
“No matter if you’re experience is similar to mine or completely different than mine, it’s just as real, and it’s just as valid, and your voice deserves to be heard just as much as mine,” Davids said.
Cover image via Wochit News.
Also published on Medium.