How White Supremacy Triumphed in Westchester’s Congressional Race as Black Leaders Stood By

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The recent congressional race for District 16, between incumbent Jamaal Bowman and challenger George Latimer, has set new precedents in campaign financing. AIPAC and other Republican-funded PACs spent over 20 million to unseat the first Black Congressman in CD16, highlighting complex racial dynamics, community leadership, and voter engagement issues.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman, the district’s first Black Congressional Representative, faced a campaign that allegedly employed concerning tactics, including racial stereotyping, divisive rhetoric, and exclusionary messaging. The massive financial backing from AIPAC and other groups adds another layer to the race, highlighting the influence of national and international issues on local politics.

The campaign against Congressman Jamaal Bowman reportedly employed a range of controversial tactics that raised concerns about racial messaging and divisiveness. These included alleged racial stereotyping, with claims that Bowman “only represented Black people,” undermining the ability of Black politicians to represent diverse constituencies. Visual manipulation was also reportedly used, with campaign literature allegedly darkening Bowman’s face, a tactic historically employed to make Black candidates appear more “threatening.” Using phrases like “Black Justice” to describe Bowman’s platform seemed designed to frame racial equity as exclusionary.

In general, the use of dog whistles to appeal to racial biases or prejudices is indeed a tactic that has been employed in various political contexts, including by those who hold or appeal to white supremacist ideologies. This approach can be used to mobilize certain voter bases without explicitly stating racist views. As Black people who are descendants of segregation and Jim Crow, we should not have forgotten what racism looked like and should have recognized the tactics of the Latimer campaign.

The failure to widely acknowledge and confront these tactics is particularly concerning, given the Black community’s historical experience with systemic racism. Our ancestors endured the brutalities of slavery, the oppression of Jim Crow laws, and the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. This collective memory should have equipped us with a keen awareness of even subtle forms of racial manipulation in political discourse, but we failed.

Furthermore, there were implications that Arab and Muslim communities “don’t belong” in the district, serving to marginalize these groups. Latimer’s failure to appear before the combined NAACP chapters located in the 16th congressional district, could be interpreted as indifference to organizations associated with Black civil rights and gives the impression he doesn’t care what Black people think or have to say. It shows a lack of respect and gives the middle finger to the Black Community. If this was any other group he respected he would have made arrangements or offered to appear before them to hear their concerns and answer their question when he allegedly felt better the next day. Collectively, these tactics appeared to exploit racial anxieties and prejudices, potentially exacerbating community divisions and undermining principles of inclusive representation.

The apparent silence from much of Westchester’s Black leadership in the face of these contentious campaign tactics represents a concerning shift in community advocacy. This lack of public disagreement, particularly from Black pastors, marks a significant departure from the Black church’s historical role as a pillar of civil rights activism and community representation. Such silence could have far-reaching implications for the future of civil rights and equity in the Black communities of Westchester County. It potentially signals a weakening of traditional support systems that have long been crucial in confronting racial injustice and promoting Black interests.

This shift may erode trust in established leadership, leaving a vacuum in advocacy that could slow progress on critical issues affecting the Black community. Young activists and community members might feel unsupported or disillusioned, potentially decreasing civic engagement. The absence of solid and unified voices against divisive political tactics could also encourage those who employ such strategies, making it harder to combat racial stereotyping and discrimination in future political discourse.

Moreover, this situation may reflect a broader challenge in adapting civil rights advocacy to contemporary political landscapes. As issues become more complex and intertwined with national and international concerns, local Black leadership may struggle to navigate these waters effectively. We now see a fragmentation of advocacy efforts and a dilution of the Black community’s political power.

Ultimately, the lack of vocal opposition from Black leaders to these campaign tactics may signify a critical juncture for civil rights advocacy in Westchester. It underscores the urgent need to rejuvenate grassroots organizing, reevaluate leadership responsibilities, and develop new strategies to champion equity and justice effectively in an evolving political environment. The future of civil rights and equity within Black and Brown communities in Westchester may depend on how the community responds to this apparent leadership vacuum. Without a new wave of activism or necessitating a reimagining of how Black communities advocate for their interests in the political arena, Black people have lost in Westchester.

The unprecedented spending in this race raises questions about the impact of money in politics, mainly when directed at removing a representative of a historically underrepresented group. This financial onslaught was reportedly coupled with an expectation of low Black voter turnout based on a perceived lack of engagement from community leaders and what’s been described as a conditioning of young people to deprioritize voting and political participation.

The dynamics of this Congressional race in Westchester County reveal deep-seated issues beyond the surface-level debates about foreign policy. While some news outlets focused on Israel-related matters, the core of this contest was fundamentally about white power and resource allocation in a historically segregated county..

Westchester has long maintained rigid racial and socioeconomic boundaries, with Black and brown residents confined to specific areas despite their achievements and community involvement. The county’s power structure often grants limited influence to minority leaders rather than allowing them to wield genuine authority.

Disturbingly, some Black leaders seemed more comfortable aligning with pro-Israel stances than advocating for their own community’s interests. This highlights a critical disconnect between leadership and the pressing needs of Black constituents.

The Black community’s inability to unite effectively stems from a lack of genuine brotherhood, sisterhood, and collective vision. Many fail to see beyond immediate personal concerns to recognize the broader issues at stake: inadequate representation, persistent economic disparities, and limited political influence that could drive meaningful change for all.

The failures to elect a Black District Attorney in 2024 and the challenges in re-electing the district’s first Black Congressman are stark indicators of the ongoing hurdles facing the community. These setbacks underscore the deep-rooted systemic issues and the urgent need to reevaluate political strategies and community engagement in Westchester’s Black population.

This congressional race in Westchester is a stark wake-up call for the Black community. It highlights the urgent need for us to strengthen our collective bonds, cultivate more effective and responsive leadership, and develop a unified vision that truly represents our interests and needs. The million-dollar question: Are they listening?

The outcome of this election underscores the persistent racial and economic inequities deeply embedded in Westchester’s political landscape. These systemic barriers continue to shape our lived experiences and limit our political power despite the achievements of individual Black electeds.

We must create a shared vision that addresses our unique challenges and aspirations. Consistent, strategic political action and civic participation are also essential. If we fail to take these crucial steps, we risk perpetuating a system where white supremacy maintains its grip on power and resources. Every election where we don’t unite and mobilize effectively allows regressive forces to solidify their control.

The stakes are too high for complacency or disunity. By coming together, supporting genuine advocates for our community, and persistently pushing for substantive change, we can begin to dismantle the structures that have long marginalized us in Westchester and beyond.

This race transcends a single election outcome, a pivotal moment for Black political power and economic equity in our country. We must heed this wake-up call and take decisive action, or risk watching white supremacy triumph repeatedly. Even when we see a Black candidate pushed to the political forefront, we must critically examine who they serve and represent.

Our collective future hinges on our ability to unite, mobilize, and effect real change in the face of entrenched opposition. We can no longer afford to be complacent or divided. The stakes are too high, and the consequences of inaction are too severe.

We must scrutinize who occupies positions of power and how they use that power. Are our elected officials genuinely advocating for the interests of the Black community, or are they beholden to other interests that may conflict with our needs? This level of critical engagement is essential to ensure that our political representation translates into tangible improvements in our lives.

In closing one has to ask the question, did Congressman Jamaal Bowman actually fail the Black community or has the Black Community fail Congressman Bowman when he needed us?

DAMON K JONES
DAMON K JONEShttps://damonkjones.com
A multifaceted personality, Damon is an activist, author, and the force behind Black Westchester Magazine, a notable Black-owned newspaper based in Westchester County, New York. With a wide array of expertise, he wears many hats, including that of a Spiritual Life Coach, Couples and Family Therapy Coach, and Holistic Health Practitioner. He is well-versed in Mental Health First Aid, Dietary and Nutritional Counseling, and has significant insights as a Vegan and Vegetarian Nutrition Life Coach. Not just limited to the world of holistic health and activism, Damon brings with him a rich 32-year experience as a Law Enforcement Practitioner and stands as the New York Representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The community misses the leadership of Brothers Herman Keith, Winston Ross and Paul Redd! People demand a Congressman who they can respect and who shows them respect! It’s as simple as that!

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