By Darren Woon, Contributor
“The Graphic Truth: Black representation in the US Congress” is meant to depict the share of members of Congress who identify as African-American between 1963 and 2020. The graphic supplements the article’s argument, which states that African-American representation in the United States Congress is lacking.
“To date, only six states have sent a African-American representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a African-American representative to either house of Congress,” the article states.
However, the graphic is troubling in how it presents the information it attempts to convey. The authors chose to use whole values rather than percentages to show the comparison between African-Americans and their Caucasian colleagues. If the authors’ goal was to show the lack of representation, their graphic does not address it.
By using whole values, they assume that their audience fully understands the scope of government, more specifically, how many members there are in the lower and upper chambers of Congress. However, this is most likely not the case, and the graphic may in fact suggest that the numbers of African-American representatives is high.
Since Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech in August 1963, African-American representation in government has increased significantly, but not enough to reflect the percentage of the demographic in the broader population (according to the US Census, 13.4% of the population identify as Black or African-American). This could have been better conveyed by the graphic if a comparison was used to show the differences in representation.