Hustle Mindset

Representation Can Only Go So Far Without Exercise Of Power For Black People


Sadly, I can I remember the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. I also remember the news coverage in the immediate aftermath — the pundits declared 2020 the year of racial reckoning.

Protests in the streets compelled mayors across the country — specifically Black mayors and other mayors of color — to action. They didn’t defund the police or even reduce police officer presence in their cities. What they did was paint the words “Black Lives Matter” on a designated street or rename a major thoroughfare “Black Lives Matter Way.”

Sure, this pissed off some white people who saw it as racist. But the truth is that it was an empty gesture to feign solidarity when the reality is that those mayors had no intention of doing anything demanded of them by various Black Lives Matter organizations or by people asserting that Black lives actually matter.

There was hope that although a Black person experienced police brutality, their Black people would receive justice and relief because it happened in a city where the mayor was Black.

This was expected after the murder of Rayshard Brooks with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Bottoms tightened use-of-force rules for police, however, she added more officers to the force and chastised people recording police activity.

It was expected with the murder of Adam Toledo with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. According to Lightfoot’s own words, Chicago authorities failed Toledo. The mayor initially agreed with calls to defund the police but backtracked, saying that Chicago residents wanted more police. Afterward, Lightfoot came up short again as seen in the unfortunate case of Anjanette Young, a Black woman whose apartment was wrongfully raided, leaving her naked and handcuffed for hours.

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Truth is, Lightfoot’s reputation concerning these matters is sketchy. What Lightfoot did do was step up the police presence around her, as other democratic mayors had done.

In San Francisco, a city with a history of police misconduct where Black men have been killed including Sean Moore and Keita O’Neal, the new District Attorney Brooke Jenkins recently fired staff responsible for the prosecution of cops.

Jenkins was appointed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to replace progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin. Breed recently declared her efforts to increase the number of police officers, reversing an earlier decision to defund police.

Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser was the first to paint “Black Lives Matter” on a street in her city. But D.C.’s Black residents saw through the gesture, citing her reputation for siding with the police.

While Black representation in white spaces should be (and is) welcomed, that alone will not yield the results Black folks need for this country to honor Black humanity. A Black person leading in any branch of government at any level doesn’t change the fact that government positions and organizations are white institutional spaces. The policies, procedures, postures, and positions of these institutions were formalized by white people. Black people, when in the role of leadership, fulfill the mission of the institution, since whiteness is so embedded.

As Dr. Greg Carr of Howard University says, individuals don’t defeat institutions.

It’s logical to think that a Black face in a white space will help Black folk. But a Black face in a white space often proves to be simply, blackface. What we, Black voters, must do is become more sophisticated and not necessarily look at the person’s skin color to secure rights but rather inspect their mindset for the same goals. All skin folk ain’t kinfolk.

Photo: A Black Lives Matter mural is painted on Halsey Street in Newark, N.J., June 27, 2020. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Rann Miller is the director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. He is the author of the upcoming book, Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids, with an anticipated release date of February 2023. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .

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