by Donisha Cotlone, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group
This weekend I attended the Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TXLBC) Luncheon and Gala, parts of the organization’s biennial Summit. It was an amazing feeling being in a room full of people who look like me. In this Capitol setting, it is very rare that I see many African-American people.
It is 2019, and we still have people who were recently elected that are the first African-American to hold that office. Although it is exciting, it is also unfortunate. While I can blame it on systematic and institutional racism, which is a big part, unfortunately it is not the only part. Within in my community I have seen a lot of self-hate that serves as a barrier we place in front of ourselves, with full understanding that this act of self-hate stems from the systematic and institutional racism of slavery, the division between those who were able to work in the house versus those forced to work in the fields. Black people were creating and innovating before and after slavery, but were torn down by the system both directly, and indirectly from their own people.
The scariest thing is not the system being against you, but that those that look just like you that were supported by the system are destroying you. To be fair, they were probably offered money or “freedom,” but how can you truly be free by tearing down your own? Who gave the system the right to dictate what freedom for us looks like? Who gave them that entitlement? We did. We consistently give the system rights to our life. We live on their terms based on the polices the system tells us are right for us.
Why in 2019 do we only have 19 African-Americans in the Texas Capitol with 181 seats available? This is not about Republicans and Democrats. This is about REAL representation. Here at the legislature, we are discussing the public education system, yet the majority of these legislators do not look like the children that are being impacted. The majority don’t live in these impoverished communities, and probably have never been into these communities. How would they know what our children need? How many representatives go into these neighborhoods to fully assess their needs before session to know what bills to propose? How can anyone say they are representing someone, but don’t know anything about those they represent?
So many questions and I don’t know who to ask. It hurts me that there aren’t any Black-owned empires. Each time we try to build within, we lose, due to “unsuspected” deaths, the prison system, drugs, etc. Why is this system so afraid of Black people thriving? Why are Black people afraid to thrive? I see so much division within Black women, but when I went to the TXLBC Summit, I met Black women who are a part of organizations that empower Black women such as the National Coalition of Black Women and Black Women’s PAC.
Learning about these organizations was so inspiring. I had been lost in these thoughts because I was not educated about these programs. I see so much jealousy and competition, but at the Summit, I found myself around so much wisdom on politics and how to excel as a community. I am unapologetically Black and I love my culture and community. This conference opened my eyes to the possibility of true Black leadership for our communities. One thing that stood out was that they don’t want to be the last standing African-Americans to hold Texas office, and I decided that they will not. Whether it’s by helping push someone into office or being in office myself. Hey, it wouldn’t be too bad to be the first African-American Governor or Lt. Governor of Texas. Who knows?