Political Strategist Ana Navarro Keynotes Annual Women of Color Leadership Conference
Political Strategist Ana Navarro said that in recent years since the 2016 election, America has seen an increase in hate crimes, racial tension and division. Despite these things, she remains optimistic.
“It feels a bit to me like a Charles Dickens film. It is the best of times and it is the worst of times,” she said. “We are in the best of times because we are out, we are proud and we are loud. We are unafraid because we are more united and stronger than ever,” said Navarro, adding that we’ve seen renewed strength in the millions of women who have marched in recent women’s marches, in women who use their pocketbooks to withdraw their support from brands who advertise or support offensive causes, in the black women who voted in mass in Alabama and, more importantly, we’ve seen it in the sharp increase in women of color running for elected office.
On Friday, June 15, the University of Missouri-Kansas City welcomed a sold-out crowd of diverse women to campus for the annual Women of Color Leadership Conference. The full-day conference, hosted by the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, aimed to provide an environment for, by and about women of color that promotes equity, education and professional development. This year’s theme, The Power of Sisterhood, focused on uniting all women on the quest to equality and advocacy. Navarro served as the keynote speaker.
Navarro is a well-known Republican strategist and a political analyst for CNN, CNN en Español, ABC News, and Telemundo. Navarro and her family immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua in 1980 as a result of the Sandinista revolution. She served as the National Co-Chair of John McCain’s Hispanic Advisory Council and was a national surrogate for McCain’s 2008 campaign. She has played a role in several Federal and State races in Florida and, most recently, served as National Hispanic Co-Chair for Gov. Jon Huntsman’s 2012 Campaign. Navarro’s address focused on the current state of women of color—or, as she calls it, colorful women—in America.
Navarro explained that it is the worst of times for women of color because “we have seen an increase in discrimination, racism and division. Black women are seeing their sons arrested for ‘waiting while black,’ Muslim women have been unable to wear their hijabs in public, and we have seen Latino immigrant women have their children torn away from their arms and put in detention.”
Highlighting the division within the current political climate, Navarro said we as Americans have lost the ability to embrace diversity of thought, which she thinks is one of the biggest problems we have in today’s society.
“We must respect people’s right to make their own choices and exercise their right to vote as they deem best.”
With athletes being chastised for kneeling, immigration laws and travel bans, Navarro said many communities of color are under attack. She told the audience that “even if we all have our needs taken care of, if our communities are a target, every single one of us is a target.”
Navarro said we have two choices: we can either ignore the human suffering, the distress and the despair happening all around us; or we can fight back—register to vote, educate ourselves on who to vote for, stay engaged and show up to the polls.
“We can see this as a setback or we can see this as an opportunity to grow in strength and numbers and purpose. Ignorant bliss is not an option right now. We must fight back hard and we must fight back together.”
Following her remarks she took questions from the audience and shared her thoughts on the future of the Republican Party, what attendees can do to advocate for communities of color, and how she thinks representatives on both sides of the aisle can better serve all people.
Navarro said it frustrates her that minorities don’t vote enough. She said so many states in 2016 we lost by such narrow margins and a lot of them are states where minorities could have and should have made a difference.
“We are three-and-a-half months away from an election. We need to make sure our friends and families and everyone in our circles are registered to vote and does it.”
When asked why she is chooses to remain a republican in today’s climate, Navarro said the Republican Party used to stand for many of the things she still stands for—strong public policy, globalization, free trade and immigration reform. She said she remains a republican because she thinks “we could all benefit from having two healthy, strong parties courting us and earning our vote.”