Op-Ed: ‘How long are we going to allow past defeat to dictate whether we fight for future success?’


In an editorial, 10th District congressional candidate Imani Oakley discusses why she feels she can win the June 7th primary despite running off the line.

Facebook photo.

Being Black in America is a legacy of proving yourself over and over to people and systems that are rooting for you to fail. Black people have to prove their humanity to people who want to kill us.

Black people have to prove their intelligence to people that still think bigotry is a logical mode of thinking. Black people have to prove their qualifications to people who have never been mandated to actually achieve.

Being Black in America means proving to an establishment Democratic party that you’ve shown up for cycle after cycle, that Black women can poll just as high as white women and even do the impossible, like flipping Georgia blue.

It means proving that “the argument for impartial suffrage, and for including the negro in the body politic” was a worthy one and the only just route for a country haunted by the voracious oppression of slavery in this country, though more than 160 years after Frederick Douglass made the argument, we still haven’t realized it fully.

And, of course, it means proving that this country was ready for a Black president; so ready that a junior Senator from Illinois (one who bore a last name that came from the Luo people of East Africa) made it to the top of the Democratic ticket and subsequently won the presidency – even beating the ballot line in NJ-10’s Essex County in the process.

The talk in the ivory towers at the moment is that New Jersey’s corrupt ballot design is impossible to beat.

This is only true in the same way it’s impossible to flip Georgia blue and impossible for a “negro” to cast a ballot. For how long are we going to allow past defeat to dictate whether we fight for future success?

Right now New Jersey is at a crossroads. We can succumb to those who say winning against a stacked deck is impossible, despite three Black politicians having done just that in recent memory, or we can make better choices.

We can choose to stop putting blind faith into the leadership of folks hellbent on still forcing Black women to prove themselves so as to stroke their own egos (the ‘I couldn’t beat the line so of course you can’t’ naysayers).

We can choose to use the same logic and reason that led pro-democracy champions of the past to recognize that without actually talking to and organizing communities–even those outside of wealthy suburbs–none of us would be able to enjoy the spoils of the 15th & 19th amendments.

Running for Congress has been no easy task. New Jersey’s Tammany Hall-style machine is ruthless and has gathered its supporters to throw sexist and racist attacks my way.

But you know what’s a more difficult fight? Convincing regular folks–who have been told for so long that they are powerless–to see the power in themselves and fight for a better New Jersey.

And that’s why we’re building a movement from the ground up. A movement that reminds those whose plight has been weighing their morale down like an anchor that they do indeed have power and they can in fact make change.

A movement that is inclusive–from the wealthy suburbs to the working class cities. A movement that instills a sense of pride in those who have been beaten down for merely wanting to see progress.

We’re building a movement. And we’re going to win.

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