Kira Davis: What the Democrats Did Today Was Political Blackface

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
AP featured image
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, and other members of Congress, kneel and observe a moment of silence at the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, Monday, June 8, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, reading the names of George Floyd and others killed during police interactions. Democrats proposed a sweeping overhaul of police oversight and procedures Monday, an ambitious legislative response to the mass protests denouncing the deaths of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Today we witnessed political theater that was not only truly cringe-inducing but disgustingly patronizing.

In the congressional rotunda, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (alongside other Democrat representatives) took a knee for black lives or racial justice or George Floyd. It was for something…that’s all you need to know. They also inexplicably wore kente cloths – Ghanian patterns that have come to represent general African culture in America. I’ve known people (including myself) to wear these and other patterns because they’re beautiful and flattering. I’ve never known any white person to appropriate these patterns for a very public but vague cultural statement. Until today. It’s all so bizarre.

I find it particularly infuriating that any of the black representatives signed off on such a thing. As I watched Pelosi and Schumer smugly parade around for the cameras in their kente cloths and African-themed colors I was trying to imagine the conversation that had to have happened behind the scenes for this to happen. Who thought this was a good idea? It was embarrassing to watch, more embarrassing to realize they thought black people like me might be in the least moved by such an open display of pandering.

To me it was nothing more than political blackface. Pelosi and Schumer were donning the colors of a people and a movement they know nothing about. Make no mistake – despite what you see in the streets right now it is not lost on many black Americans that Democrats have been presiding over the devaluation and devastation of black communities for decades. We saw a sliver of that sentiment when radio host Charlamagne Tha God interviewed Joe Biden and demanded some workable answers from the former VP. Instead, he got platitudes. In his follow-up interviews, Charlamagne has expressed his frustration at Democrats not being available to discuss real solutions and yet coming around every few years to make empty promises and scare our votes out of us.


Pelosi and Schumer have a combined 70-odd years of political service and to look at what they did today it’s clear to see not a damn thing has changed even though they had the pleasure of serving in a Democrat majority Congress under the first black President. They’ve done nothing to change things for black Americans and one could argue they’ve only made things worse in the last few decades. They continue to oppose fundamental, systemic changes that could directly benefit black communities – school choice, criminal justice reform and the right to work (which opens jobs for them that were previously reserved only for those who “know someone”). Republicans have failed at wading into black communities and shifting the narrative with boots on the ground, but at least they’re not pretending they’re the only solution to problems and that voting for anyone else but them will “put y’all back in chains.”

Pelosi and company – including every last black representative in that rotunda today – have been political bystanders for decades and now expect to throw on some African colors, take a knee and be instantly absolved of the responsibility they bear for the current chaos and unrest among black Americans. They want to wear the face of Black America without having any idea what the culture and responsibility of that face is.

That’s what we call “blackface.”




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