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Opinion
Heather Beaven
Palm Coast Monday, Nov. 21, 2016 1 year ago

In pursuit of a representative government — with regard to gender, race, age

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I no longer look at the world as a white woman.

Updated Nov. 29, to retract incorrect statistics about race and veteran status.  

By Heather Beaven

Guest Writer

A few years ago, I had my DNA analyzed. I am not who I thought I am. As family folklore goes, it’s true that I am predominately British. I am not, however, German, I am Norwegian and French. I am also Sub-Saharan African. Let’s be clear, no one who has laid eyes on me would think I am of African descent, nor do I claim that knowing of my lineage gives me a deeper understanding of bigotry in America. But it has changed me. 

I no longer look at the world as a white woman. I am more than that. I no longer look about the diversity of the power systems around me with only the lens of a woman. I am both a little less color blind and a little more color aware.

While I will never be an African American, I now know that I am an American with African blood, and I can never unknow that piece of me. Just as the Momondo contest winners discovered, knowing what courses through you, changes you.

Locally, this election has shone a light on a critical failure of the political parties. We aren’t all who we seem to be, but even who we seem to be isn’t properly represented. Women aren’t equally represented. Minorities aren’t proportionally represented. Anyone born after 1966 isn’t equally represented, nor is anyone who served in the military.

Just over half (52%) of Flagler county residents are female, yet only 40% of those elected to a constitutional office or a municipal governing body are women. More troubling, of the names on the ballot Nov. 8, only 11 belonged to a woman.

When women win office in Flagler County, it’s serious business. Four of our five cities have female mayors. If those four women of influence referred five women each to the She Should Run political campaign incubator, we’d go a long way to balancing our ballot. Obviously, the onus isn’t just on these four. It’s incumbent on all of us to encourage people of caliber to run for office.

The lack of racial and ethnic diversity in our electoral choices is even more apparent.

While some office holders representing the smaller municipalities don’t have bios readily available, it is clear that Flagler finds itself in a lack of diversity in other key demographics as well. Seventy-five percent of residents are under 65 years of age; however, just 13% of our elected officials are under 50.

About 1% of Americans can claim veteran status. In Flagler, that number is a whopping 12%, and yet we have few elected officials with a firsthand understanding of military life.

As a woman, as a Navy veteran and the wife of an Army soldier, as a 48-year-old mother of two school-aged children and as a person who recently discovered the richness of her own blood, I pray that we take this off-cycle time to re-think how we can use our own personal influence and our local political parties to do more to encourage a rainbow of people to vote, to participate in our government and to run for office.

Heather Beaven lives in Flagler Beach and ran for Congress in 2012.

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