There is a common misconception in liberal politics that racism is exclusive to one party: the evil Republicans who orchestrate systemic racism all by their lonesome. The truth, as with many things in the political scene, is infinitely worse. In reality, the majority of both Democratic and Republican politicians serve and protect the racist institutions upon which this country was built. It is, unfortunately, in their job description. We do not have to look further than our own city limits to see proof of this; we, as activists, cannot ignore the evils of our city council simply because they have that oh so magical “D” next to their names.
There is no question that Cincinnati suffers from intense racism: in all but one of our CPS schools, Black students are disproportionately punished; our city council refuses to listen to mass demands from its constituents to defund the police and instead insists on giving more funding to Cincinnati’s incredibly racist police force; members of the council have been routinely caught making racist comments about Black members of the city council, and the council continues to displace Black families so they can gentrify the city. The racist police budget that passed this summer wasn’t just passed by the two Republicans on city council, it was also passed by Democrats, all while they were smiling at us and kneeling with us and feeding us empty platitudes about how much they care about their constituents. And this is where the problem arises: the liberal politicians who claim to be on our side when they need our votes are the same politicians voting for and excitedly supporting racist institutions. And many of us on the left make the tragic mistake of believing them and trusting in the system over and over again.
This is not to say that electoralism is necessarily useless, but in Cincinnati, where Democrats have the ability to create any changes they wish, they still refuse to stand up for what is right. electoralism has proven to be a fruitless endeavor, and so we must stop pretending that the Democrats will save us.
But, as always, hope is never lost. While dismantling systems of oppression may be near impossible to do through the electoral arena in Cincinnati, change is still possible. We can always save ourselves.
There are two main avenues in which movements have been successful in the past: direct action/disruptive protests, and mutual aid. Mutual aid is a lesser-known means of change than disruptive protests, but is a fairly simple concept; mutual aid seeks to meet the immediate needs of our community when the government fails to meet those needs. For example, in Cincinnati, when hundreds of protestors were wrongfully arrested over the summer, it was Cincinnati residents, not the government, who helped raise money for their bail, and it was Cincinnati lawyers who helped fight for them in court. A more historical example can be found through the study of the Black Panthers; they sought to provide for their community by providing food and other resources when the government was content to let them starve. Disruptive protests are significantly more well-known and understood than mutual aid, and can take any number of forms, but they must always disrupt the status quo. “Protests” that YAC has planned in the past, like the March for Our Lives in Cincinnati, cannot be considered disruptive or effective protests, as they received permits and actively worked with the police, thereby actively enforcing the status quo. It is important to note, however, that neither of these methods of change will ever be effective without sustained pressure, and escalation of the disruptive protests.
Cincinnati is filled to the brim with people that care about each other. Unfortunately, the left-wing of Cincinnati is so caught up in the game that our politicians play with us that we forget that we can take care of each other without the politicians and their racism. The Democrats cannot and will not save us, that responsibility is on us, and us alone.