Reader Submission by Ebony Moore
Just the other day I found myself grinning at my android screen as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) stated her place in speaking for Black Americans. To paraphrase, she basically stated that as a Puerto Rican, her ancestry is comprised of European (Spaniard), Indigenous (Taino) and, African (the most litty ingredient) blood. She went on to explain how she is both made up of those racial components but is not singularly one of those things at the same time. I let out a sigh of relief at her admission. She had established and maintained her lane by admitting that she doesn’t have the range to speak for the plight of African Americans. My feelings of “you get me” that the Freshman, Democratic representative sparked would soon come crashing down, however.
As I waited for my trolley to arrive to carry me from work, I grew antsy and did what every millennial accustomed to over-consumption and social anxiety does in nerve wracking situations, I decided to take my thumb for a walk through the mean streets of Twitter. Once there, I stumbled upon the often problematic and always hotep posts of Tariq Nasheed. He had shared a video of AOC and captioned, “What in the hell is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talking about”. My eyebrow rose. He went on to lament, “When reparations for Foundational Black Americans come up, these people start engaging in deflective, incoherent babble”. I shook my head like Alfred Woodard when she was Wanda in Holiday Heart.
While sitting as a guest at South by Southwest (SXSW), AOC fielded questions from Briahna Gray, a seasoned and highly credentialed editor for The Intercept. AOC was asked, “What is the political cost of saying you’re going to throw your hat in with a program like reparations, how much do you think those considerations should be made?” I smiled. Surely the young woman who constantly touts her Bronx lineage, Puerto Rican heritage, socialist rhetoric and much-needed trillion dollar Green New Deal would agree that the descendants of men and women who built this country without pay, deserve to be made whole. Not only was I wrong, she had me out here looking stupid as she stumbled over and completely bombed her answer.
“ Well, you know it’s a good question, I think that one of the things that we’ve seen here from early polling, actually, is that I think that we should distance ourselves and start getting away from this idea that that we should only care about ourselves,” she started. “Because when we really do start to assert and believe and understand and see how how our destinies are tied, it doesn’t, you kind of get away from this idea that only people of you know people of color care about other people of color, and only white people care about other white people, and so on. There are a lot of systems that we have to dismantle, but it also it does get into this interesting area of where we are as a country, about identity. Because, like, what does it mean to be black, who is black and who isn’t, especially as our country becomes more biracial and multiracial. Same with being Latino, same thing it brings up all these questions like passing, and you know, things like that. But I do think it is important that we have to have substantive conversations about race beyond, like, what is racist and what is not, and if someone says something racist does that make them racist, like, we need to get away from talking well, not that we have to get away from talking about racism, it’s important that we talk about racism but because we talked about racism so much, we actually are not talking about race itself. And we aren’t educating ourselves about our own history to come to the conclusion that I think we need to come to.”
Why does it seem like every time you go public with your love of someone they let you down? That’s a whole other article, by the way. If your face is twisted up like you just heard some mean battle rap bars then –samsies! What the hell does that even mean? How does demanding reparations equate to African Americans only caring about themselves?
After watching this clip, I could not help but think back to Ocasio-Cortez’s admittance that she is not Black and, therefore, not qualified to speak for Black people. I pondered over the connection between her being a certain percentage African but not African American. For me, it became clear that AOC is not sold (pun intended) on reparations due to the fact that those who are not directly descendants from slaves in the Unites States, but still minorities and embattled, would not reap benefits from such a measure, namely Puerto Ricans like herself. In other words, African Americans are trying to put a little too much dip on our chip and she’s not with it. Should we then remain with her?