“I don’t think Obama is the standard we should be striving towards,” and “I believe our current system of capitalism is slavery by another name,” are just two of many soundbites coming out the bold Black mouth of Congressman-Elect Jamaal Bowman.
He believes the Democratic Party needs a massive makeover. He feels his party has to stop allowing the Republicans to weaponize their words, putting them on the defense. Simply put, this brother is not ya mom’s Democrat. He believes Black Lives Matter, believes in Medicare For All, and would like to see reversals of the 1994 crime bill in regards to mandatory minimums, truth-in-sentencing laws, ending life sentences and the federal death penalty.
Then there’s the phrase that pays, “Defund The Police,” that even had Obama publicly dismissing it as a “snappy slogan.”
While Obama’s concern was tactical: “You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.” Bowman and others like him, feel the first and only Black President – known for promoting hope and change – is displaying a startling, even radical, cynicism about the commitment of White Americans to racial justice. Bowman would like to see a greater decrease of federal funding that goes to local police departments, jails and prisons.
Like the Squad’s most outspoken member, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez better known as the Notorious AOC, Bowman is ‘kicking in the door waving the 44’ as supposed to playing the ‘polite language’ policy game, that Obama and many of his generation are known for. That is probably why the Squad has welcomed Bowman with open arms. Yup the Squad just got a little larger, Blacker and Bolder with the presence of the newest member, Jamaal Bowman. He will be sitting in the seat that was held for three decades by Eliot Engel, a further example of the generational shift taking place in politics.
There is a growing coalition that came out strong for Biden. They now have a representative like Bowman, who in a few weeks will have the power to translate a “snappy slogan” into law and policy. In fact, this work is already underway.
According to polling data, most Americans interpret defunding the police not as a call to abolish police departments but rather to change the way those departments operate — they are more sophisticated than Obama assumes. A Gallup survey in July found that 70 percent of African-Americans support “reducing the budgets of police departments and shifting the money to social programs,” along with 41 percent of White Americans and 49 percent of Hispanic Americans.
“This is not just about policing. This is about the criminal justice system overall that needs to be completely transformed and completely upended,” Bowman shared with Black Westchester. “We need to look at more alternatives to incarceration, especially when we talk about people who are incarcerated right now because of drug offenses like marijuana and others. So, there is a whole lot of work to do.”
So let’s not get it twisted, stop listening to Republicans who have been aggressively weaponizing our messages. For the record, Mr. Bowman is not advocating for the abolishment of police as they would have you believe. Just listen to the man’s words and hear what he is saying for yourself.
In October at a rally for justice on the steps of Mount Vernon City Hall, Jamaal Bowman – who shared he was also victim of police brutality at he age of 11 – explains exactly what he is talking about when he says, “Defund The Police.”
This was after beating longtime Congressman, Eliot Engel in the Democratic Primary and just weeks before the General Election. He ran on speaking up on these issues in Washington. He talked the talk on the campaign trail. He defeated the popular incumbent. Now he is walking the walk.
The founder and former principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, a public middle school in Eastchester, Bronx now represents New York’s 16th Congressional District (the northern Bronx and the southern half of Westchester County, including the cities of Mount Vernon, Yonkers, New Rochelle, and Rye.) He feels if Democrats can admit that it is not working, they have to ask themselves why isn’t it working.
“I believe our current system of capitalism is slavery by another name,” he said. “We’ve moved from physical chattel enslavement and physical racial segregation to a plantation economic system. One that keeps the majority of Americans unemployed, or underemployed and struggling just to survive, while the power elite continues to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, and allow large corporations to pretty much run the world as multinational corporations. The pandemic has revealed it. With over 300,000 dead from the pandemic, disproportionately Black and brown, and Jeff Bezos is the first $200 billionaire. In the next six years, he might become the first trillionaire. That’s slavery by another name. It’s a system that’s not working, so we need a new system.”
Bernie Sanders’ runs showed Bowman that there is an energy for a new type of politics, and the BLM movement reinforced not just what he had heard and read about throughout his childhood, but what he also experienced first-hand.
He may be outspoken but that’s because he thinks the party needs a massive makeover. Nothing has ever been changed by not addressing the issues. Bowman feels the best way to do it is to simply acknowledge it out loud and publicly, if necessary.
*He may be the new kid on the block, but he is not going in to go-along-to-get-along. He is willing to work with his colleagues who don’t think like him but from the first speech, he showing he is going in to unapologetically represent his people.