Riche Richardson, associate professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University, says the recent election of Mia Love as the Republican Party’s first African American female member of Congress carries a number of messages, including the GOP’s potential to produce a diverse array of leaders.

Richardson says:

“Mia Love’s congressional victory as a black woman candidate for the GOP in Utah, like Tim Scott’s unprecedented senatorial election in South Carolina, is exciting and wonderful to see. While GOP policies are widely unpopular in many black communities, it is important not to underestimate or dismiss the Republican Party’s potential to cultivate leadership in a diverse array of candidates, as we have witnessed in recent years in the example of Michael Steele, the GOP’s very first African American chairman. I am not willing to oversimplify such breakthroughs as a form of tokenism.

“The black victories in the GOP this week reminded me of how I felt when President George W. Bush appointed Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to the highest offices in his cabinet during his first term. Because Rice and I are both from Alabama, I have followed her story very closely and am deeply inspired by it.

“I think that whatever we value politically, it is important to keep an open mind when it comes to Mia Love. It goes without saying that Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968, opened the door to Love’s congressional achievements. The bar is high because of the impact of such phenomenal predecessors.”