As a scholar coming into herself in a moment of severe political polarization, it feels difficult to imagine the co-existence of my grassroots convictions in centralized government. This is because despite years of, albeit rudimentary education on government action, my disposable knowledge on many important positions and fields could be described as cursory at best. While this is my personal reflection, it's also a microcosm of the suggestion that as a nation we feel an extraordinary degree of confidence in trusting or distrusting things based on a historical trauma or privileges.
As a Black, queer, and low-income woman, I have purposefully kept my proximity to central government to a minimum to prevent an unnecessary degree of visibility that could threaten my safety. From early 20th-century veterans to incarcerated folks, the low-income Black community I come from has shared a trans-generational aversion to bureaucracy, or “Big Government” long before I was born. It is quite likely that many will hold this belief long after I am gone as well.
That being said, I can confidently say that what made my time at PLEN feel so prolific was experiential exposure. For example, it is somewhat overwhelming to consider the scope of career options in just the US State Department alone. However, it is also exhilarating. I remember leaving each session of the seminar with a reinvigorated sense of curiosity. How differently might my community respond to the government if more people from our neighborhoods represented our unique obstacles and desires at the state, national, and international levels? How might I feel differently about considering a career in global policy if I felt like my nation’s convictions were aligned with the self-determination and empowerment of Black and Brown folks across the globe?
I’m not sure that representation alone is the panacea to the disparate levels of societal trust in government action. Yet, it is a significant variable distinguishing the tenacity of white Americans, as opposed to incredibly high rates of disinterest shown in Black and Brown Americans, in celebrating our national government. Seeing a litany of racial and ethnic diversity represented in women politicians at the Women in Global Policy seminar was inspiring. To see that there is room to bring experiences of “minorities” means there is room to re-define the landscape of majoritarian politics writ large. My time in DC, albeit brief, gave me an encyclopedia-sized collection of notes to provide to other students. This information ranges from careers in humanitarian aid to musings from an American entrepreneur on the future of cyber-security. This invaluable networking will serve as a jump-start to my new desire to bring the world to my city.
Brooke Kimbrough is a senior from Wayne State University studying Black Studies. She attended the Women in Global Policy seminar in 2019.