By DaiJhah Owens
Well friends, I’m back up on my bullsh*t! Just kidding, but I did take a pretty long break from writing about politics. Between the ongoing Pandemic and the Circus that was the 2020 Election, I needed my writing to be less informative and more about healing parts of myself that I felt like other Black Women could relate to. But, I wanted to jump back in and talk about a topic that comes up all the time surrounding politics and larger systems, especially dealing with marginalized communities. Is it enough to have a BIPOC person in a position of power or leadership, even if the system that governs them has not changed?
This question popped back up on my radar recently when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez better known as AOC, was in media headlines once again for breaking away from her progressive colleagues or “The Squad” and voting present on a House Bill that would approve a almost $1 Billion budget for Israel to have more military technology. So what does voting Present mean you ask? In the US House, voting present means that you don’t agree or disagree with the bill that was put fourth. It simply means you were there but chose not to take sides. As you can assume, this enraged her mostly liberal/progressive supporters and raised some eyebrows as she is typically strong on her stances. Some political analyst have assumed she made this decision for future political aspirations. For me, I could care less about her “why”, I get how politics works, so I’m not surprised. However, this brings up the question posed above for me. It’s a question I always think critically about when looking at BIPOC in politics and leadership positions.
It’s the same question I had after Obama was elected president, the same one I had when Jay-Z signed that deal with the NFL, when Kamala was made the first female BIPOC Vice-president and now with AOC. Is having BIPOC folks in positions of power, in positions to make life changing decisions enough to see the kind of change we won’t in this country? Time and time again, my answer No is reinforced by reality.
Y’all know I love me some hard truths. and the truth is this: placing a person inside an oppressive system or organization and expecting them to make the kind of change needed is naïve. One person who belongs to a certain marginalized community can not make important changes unless the system it’s within supports those changes. The US government is not set up to support progressive change, it is designed to maintain the status quo. At every turn, Obama met opposition from the political system in place. Him being a Black man did not overturn the centuries old foundation already set. It was good optics though!
I believe most politicians go into government wanting to make positive changes for their supporters. But once they get there they are faced with a choice, stand your ground on your beliefs and risk being voted off the island, or make peace with the systems in place and do what little you can to pacify your supporters. I’m sure we can all guess which choice is most popular.
AOC voting “present” is sad yes, but very common for politicians. I know for some, AOC has been a beacon of hope, and seen as one of the good ones. But there comes a time when the US political system demands every politician make a choice, and she made hers. The longer one stays in the system the more it will morph them into the person needed to uphold the status quo. If you happen to stand on your beliefs, the system will silence you.
So you see, BIPOC folks being in powerful positions will never be a bad thing, in fact we need more of it. But it will never be enough to completely overturn the precedent that has been set. The only answer is to dismantle and rebuild, anything else is just a band aide.
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!