“I want to be a public servant. I want to work toward government being accessible to the people.”, says Ieshuh Griffin, who’s running for Wisconsin’s 10th District State Assembly seat. But her lofty campaign ideal is not the issue that has garnered her a significant amount of local and national media attention. Griffin (who served as valedictorian for her high school) has ruffled a lot of feathers with the purpose statement that she submitted to election officials. As an Independent candidate she’s afforded a five-word platform descriptor, to be placed underneath her name on the voting ballot. Apparently, she prefers to be recognized as “NOT the white man’s ‘bitch’”.
State election officials deemed her purpose statement to be obscene/derogatory and rejected it. Thus, her name will appear on the ballot without any purpose statement. However, she does have the right to use the statement in any literature or advertisements that she chooses to have published.
According to Griffin, her statement implies that she won’t rollover (like a dog) to the power structure of society. She says she didn’t anticipate the amount attention the actual statement has garnered and received no complaints from the 250 residents who signed her candidacy petition in the district, where she canvassed door-to-door.
The obvious question goes to why Griffin chose to articulate herself in such a manner. If she believes that her choice of words best resonates with the people in her district, should she be concerned about the not-so-positive light, in which she portrays herself and her potential constituency? Should she be concerned that her gesture perpetuates some of the negative stereotypes given to African-Americans? I would like to think that she is savvy enough to know that type of language would likely be counterproductive during Assembly and lobbying sessions.
I do not think we are at a point in society where blacks are generally benefited by the use of such provocative gestures to obtain political influence and power (or anything short of selling rap albums). I also understand that we will likely never get to a point where the dominant culture genuinely respects the human dignity of blacks, such that these gestures are given the same dismissal as those by the Limbaughs and Gingrichs’. Whether the attention will benefit her push for office, we’ll find out. Nevertheless, my friend and I wouldn’t have been discussing this in my kitchen, last Sunday afternoon, had she not made the gesture.