Representation: Does it Translate to Power?

By DaiJhah Owens

In recent years, Black folks have made gains in the fight for Representation in leading stream society. More and more, we are seeing ourselves starring in popular TV shows, modeling for luxury fashion houses, and being included in marketing campaigns for major corporations. Even more, we see ourselves represented in government, in the medical field, higher-ed, and more! Seeing a little black girl walk down the toy aisle and be able to choose a doll that matches her melanin is beautiful. And a fight that seems never to end wins like this can truly warm one’s heart. But, after some thinking, I asked myself, can Representation be enough? In this context, does Representation translate to Power?

I believe that Representation cannot be our end all be all. The representation must be a tool we use to gain what is truly needed for us to thrive safely; the complete dismantlement of white supremacy and all its cousins!

By no means do I want to downplay the importance of Representation. Being included in mainstream society helps reiterate that black folks are fully human and should be treated as such. More importantly, representation is a huge motivator for black folks. Seeing people who look like us succeed in spaces that were not meant for us shows us how powerful and capable we have always been. But, it simply can not end here.

Louis Vuitton will name a black man to their design team while the entire board of directors is white. Universities will hire a black womxn as Director of Diversity and Inclusion while the whole board of trustees is white people. Hollywood will cast a black person in their movies while the entire production team is white. I have no problem with black folks holding these positions; in fact, I praise it. My issue is that these institutions stop there. Representation has been used as a weapon to further white supremacy while under the guise of progress. They genuinely believe that as long as a black person is visible in their branding, they can continue to operate in oppressive ways.

This phenomenon is not new, and black feminist activists have been ringing the alarm since before I was born. These oppressive institutions will search high and low to find ways to pacify Black people. Instead of the real thing, they would rather put all their energy into giving us a semblance of progress. Well, to this, I say full stop!

Representation is beyond necessary; no one is arguing against that. But Representation without the transfer of Power, is violent. We deserve better. We have to demand more!

DaiJhah Owens is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. DaiJhah is passionate about shifting political power to oppressed groups through education. She believes there is nothing more powerful than an educated black woman who can smell political BS a mile away! Connect with her on Instagram at @d_nakhole!

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