OURVIEW: The dangers of a non-Black representative for House District 46


Sheryl Cole will be competing in the run-off against Jose “Chito” Vela III.

Texas House District 46 of the Texas Legislature is up for grabs for this upcoming election season, and the Austin area isn’t paying enough attention. That’s not a call out, it’s just the truth: People are generally less involved in local elections than they are in federal ones, meaning that a lot of what goes on in the local political sphere goes largely unobserved. But while that may be the general case, the election for this seat is definitely one that needs to be taken into special consideration.

There are two people of color who are currently running for the seat: Sheryl Cole, who is a Black woman, and Jose “Chito” Vela III, who is a Latino man. Cole is a PTA President to Austin’s Mayor Pro Tem, while Vela is a Immigration/criminal defense attorney. The incumbent for House District 46 is a Black state representative Dawnna Dukes who is 12-term member who sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee and was not voted into the run-off in May.

While normally it would be great for either one to get the seat (after all, it’s solid representation to have either a Black or Latino legislator), there’s a certain historical background behind House District 46 that would prioritize Cole. Aside from the fact that her loss would mean no Black representatives in Austin, her insight as a black woman would be intensely helpful in upcoming policy making.

To elaborate, the next time the Legislature meets will be in 2019, and they will be covering issues such as reproductive rights and women’s health. Both of which are issues where black women are left out of the conversation. conversations where the voices of black women are needed most.

Professional tennis player Serena Williams recently shared her story about her C-section, and in an interview with BBC, commenting on how Black woman are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. Though Williams states she was lucky enough to have a doctor who understood her, other Black women aren’t as lucky.

A piece by Tonic.Vice allowed six Black women to speak about their separate experiences with their doctors. Patrina Powell from Brooklyn, New York, describes how she was left in the dark about her pregnancy for nine months. Then after 24 hours of labor, doctors knocked her out and performed a C-section without her consent.

Monica Johnson from New York, New York, details how she was experiencing intense pain in her shoulder and how her doctor continuously dismissed the situation. After changing doctors she learned the pain was caused by a slap tear that was so severe she had to go into surgery the next week.

Since Black women are the ones most at risk when visiting a doctor it makes sense to have a Black woman in a legislative position who could speak for her community and ensure their safety.

It’s true that we want representation in our policy-makers, but there are times when certain representation is going to be better than others, and it genuinely looks like this is one of those times. Do I think the world is going to end if Vela III gets elected over Cole? Of course not.

In this instance, Cole has more experience based on her identity. All in all, just pay attention to these local elections. It may not be our country, but it’s still our home, and we need to make sure we have the best equipped people for the job.