Black representation in politics and why it’s important

A teen's hands hold up a "Bernie for President 2020" sign into a blue sky, while another girl flashes a victory sign. Photo taken in Vista, California on October 11, 2019. Photo: Simone

What LeRay Thinks

Any views or opinions expressed in “What LeRay Thinks” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors.

On March 10, 2020, the day of the presidential primary in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Western Michigan University Democrats hosted a Bernie Rally in support of candidate Bernie Sanders. Food, music, and a fraternity fundraiser to support the disabled were present at the rally, but you wanna know who wasn’t? African-Americans. 

As I walked around the rally, I noticed that I was one of maybe two African-Americans actually interested in this political rally. Why is that? It is very obvious that politics affect African-Americans and non-black people of color, so why were they so underrepresented? 

I suggested collaborating with different diverse organizations to the Western Democrats to help bring more colored representation into campus politics. And even though the idea sounded great to the Western Democrats, my allies unfortunately said it would be extremely difficult for them to collaborate due to certain challenges. What did I say to this?

Who gives a damn. 

Thinking about African-American history, we’ve always faced challenges with pretty much anything and everything we do. Whether it fits our freedom, our women, our safety with the police, etc. So why would this be any different or any more difficult? Why is it so difficult for two organizations to collaborate on something as critically important as how politics affect the African-American community? Even if it’s in an arena as small as a college campus?

Why is it so hard for organizations such as the Black student union or the Latino student union to collaborate with the Western Democrats or the Western Republicans? Why is it so hard to have that color representation in something as big as politics, especially in college? Isn’t the whole point of college to be presented with and asked to address difficult questions and situations?

To be completely honest — and this is solely based on my opinion and my experiences during my first year on this campus, and in my life in general being an African-American involved in things like politics — some African-Americans are simply scared to be part of something as big as politics. I believe those individuals are concerned about the type of backlash they might have to endure by participating, and we as African-Americans are already dealing with a litany of issues related to our race. 

That’s why I believe most African-Americans are Democrats because they choose to or are not willing to be exposed to all political stances. For me, I’ve always expressed how — even though I am a “Democrat“ — I also believe that other candidates that are not Democrats could be a great choice. When I do express these opinions, I automatically get criticized, and called an “Uncle Tom.” 

I’m not. 

I am simply exposing myself to all areas of the political spectrum in order to encourage other African-Americans to do the same.

LeRay Posey is a Western Michigan University student studying photography. She enjoys analyzing complicated issues when writing opinion articles, as well as reading and writing poetry, photography work, and storytelling through her writing.