‘If You See It, You Can Be It’: Former State Lawmaker Linda Coleman Says Black Woman VP Would Diversify State, Local Races Too

In this Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., gives her opening statement during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington. Demings is among the women Joe Biden is considering for his vice presidential running mate. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

By Max Millington

August 11, 2020

Coleman, a longtime NC political leader, talks about the “trickle down” effect Biden’s VP pick could have in our state and beyond.

This is Part 4 of a Cardinal & Pine series, in which influential Black women leaders in NC talk about the possibility of a Black woman vice president. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

UPDATE: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced Tuesday that US Sen. Kamala Harris of California will be his running mate.

Of the leading candidates to be presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, more than half are women of color, according to several outlets. 

The pool includes notable lawmakers like California Sen. Kamala Harris and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, as well as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Florida Rep. Val Demings, California Rep. Karen Bass, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and former national security advisor Susan Rice.

Cardinal & Pine wanted to know what that meant to some of NC’s most influential women of color, so we asked. 

“I expected that there would be a White woman, two or three, before a Black woman.”

Former NC lawmaker Linda Coleman

Linda Coleman, a former state lawmaker and US Congress candidate (Image via Coleman’s campaign)

Greenville native Linda Coleman has served as chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners and held a seat in the NC House of Representatives from 2005-2009. 

A graduate of North Carolina A&T, Coleman has lived to see the Civil Rights movement and milestones thereafter, like Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign. 

In 2009, Coleman was appointed Director of State Personnel by Gov. Bev Perdue where she served until 2012. Coleman also ran as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2012 and 2016 and for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in 2018. 

C&P: As someone who lived through the Civil Rights era, when you were younger, did you ever imagine that a Black woman could be VP or even President of the US?

Linda: No, I didn’t. Not even a Black man. It was really amazing when Barack Obama was nominated and won, because I never thought that would be something that would happen in my lifetime. I thought maybe it would happen, but maybe during my grandchildren’s lifetime. 

I expected that there would be a White woman, two or three, before a Black woman.

C&P: If Biden selects a Black woman as his running mate what will it mean to the Black women of your generation?

Linda: It would mean the best hope for tomorrow; and I say that in looking at the young black girls growing up. If you can see it, you can be it. So it would give them something to aspire to. 

I believe that having someone there who looks like me, who has been through some of the experiences that I have been through, they understand and could voice our hopes, our dreams, our frustrations, issues that need to really be on the table and to have those issues addressed because so many times our issues don’t even make it to the table.

C&P: Shirley Chisholm’s name often comes up when we discuss women and Black women running for the highest offices in the land. What did Shirley Chisholm’s run for President teach you?

Linda:  It just brought to mind just how courageous Black women have been through the ages. This is what we have to do when everybody else thinks you’re crazy. You just have to get out there and blaze your own trail because you can’t wait for somebody else to handpick you.

C&P: Do you think this selection could have a trickle down effect to local elections with so many Black women being on the Democratic ticket in NC?

Linda:  Absolutely it will. I think that the Biden VP ticket will bring out voters to vote on the down ballot. Not only that, but the Blacks who are running in Council of State, judicial, other races, it’s going to have an impact. So I think that having a diverse ticket, period, helps the whole ticket.

C&P: If Biden is elected, what type of role would you like to see his VP fulfill?

Linda: I’d like for that role to be a partner and to have some real input into policy and into being visible so that people know that that person is helping to make a difference and bring about the change that we have been working for. There are so many things that are going on right now that have to be addressed. The Black Lives Matter movement, raising the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, all of those are just important to our democracy, to our health and well being. 

I just believe (it’s important to have) that person there and to have that person give input into policy issues that are not going away. These issues need to be addressed in a way that makes a real difference. 


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