National Press Club

Rep. Fudge addresses the state of African-American women in America

August 2, 2013 | By Jennifer A. Ejim |

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, a third-term representative and the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus,defined the state of the African-American woman in America today as a source of “provocation, misunderstanding, and misinterpretation,” at a National Press Club Newsmaker Aug. 1.

Fudge was invoking Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, who explained the "twin jeopardies of race and sex" facing black women during a 1974 University of Missouri national conference on black women. Fudge, a political veteran, said African-American women in America today routinely encounter the same obstacles, including attempts to classify them and put them into a less-than-flattering category.

“As far back as I can remember, particularly since we have had one of the best role models that we have ever had in the White House in our first lady, everything about black women has been frustrated, criticized, ridiculed and judged," Fudge said. "One day we are too black, the next day we are not black enough. One day we are too aggressive, the next day we are too passive. One day we are too successful, which of course means that we are too single, and the next day we are too poor or we are too promiscuous, and the list goes on and on.”

Black women in America, and all over the world, have continued to make strides in their various endeavors, despite societal attempts to strip them of their intelligence, femininity, beauty, and strength, Fudge said.

The solution to overcoming this impediment, Fudge said, is for black women to take proactive measures to ensure that they take a stand and that their voice is heard where it matters the most. In another reference to Chisholm, Fudge said, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”

African-American women must overcome any tendency to shy away from tough and should “push back at whatever is pushing” at them, even if they fear being labeled as unfeminine or too aggressive, she said. If black women do not make the effort to take a stand against the inequality, then progress made by Chisholm and other leaders will be in vain, she said.

The change has to start from the grassroots because “there are people at every level of government making decisions that affect our lives" _ from the school board and the city council to the White House, she said.