Professor Susan Kang Named On City & State’s Power List

Professor Susan Kang Named On City & State’s Power List

Professor Susan Kang Named On City & State’s Power List

City & State just put John Jay Associate Professor Susan Kang on their “Power List” of the top 10 up-and-coming leaders from Manhattan, and with good reason. The Political Science professor, and member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), was listed because of her grassroots movement that successfully took aim at the now dissolved State Senate Independent Democratic Conference, a caucus Kang believed didn’t represent the true concerns of their constituents. Kang was also a noted member of New York Congresswoman-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign team. She even appeared in Ocasio-Cortez’s game-changing campaign video, as she fed her children and walked them around her neighborhood. We talked with Kang to learn more about her passion for politics, her experience with Ocasio-Cortez, and what she wants John Jay students to understand.

“I've got two young kids. I've got my job, but I'm going to figure out a way to get involved the best I can.” —Susan Kang 

How did you start getting involved in politics?
After Trump's election, I was like I have to get involved. I don't know how I'm going to do it. I've got two young kids. I've got my job, but I'm going to figure out a way to get involved the best I can. I joined an organization called the Democratic Socialist of America (DSA). And, I became really focused on the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC)—which was a group of Senate Democrats that essentially voted with the Republicans—after my State Senator, José Peralta, decided to join them. I created an organization with a bunch of mothers called No IDC NY, which is now a multi-candidate campaign committee. But back then we were an awareness group because we wanted Senator Peralta to address our concerns. We created a lot of community pressure.

 What was it like when you started to get to know Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? 
I was able to meet her when she started doing these meetings in people's living rooms. I looked around the room and I saw that there were a lot of young people, diverse young people. I was impressed. I thought to myself, this is the future of Queens politics. There were South Asians, a young man from Black Lives Matter, there were communities of color that you don't typically see represented at these events. It was like a little microcosmic Queens in that room. Then I heard her speak, and I was blown away. I don't remember everything, but I remember she said, "My race will matter for all the other grassroots, challengers, and incumbents running in Queens today." She just has that gift of being able to engage everyone in the room.

“I want our students to know that what made Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez different from every other politician was that she was brave and bold.” —Susan Kang 

What was it like being in her now famous campaign video?
When that video dropped, it just went viral. People went crazy. People from all walks of life were like, "Whoa, you were in the video!” This one guy stopped me in the street. He was a little bit conservative, older, white, in his mid-60s. He said, "I saw you in that video. That Alexandria, she's something." I asked, "Can we count on your vote?" And, he was like, "Well I'm going to sit this one out."

What was it like when she won the Democratic Primary?
I was standing in what they call a polling station, handing out cards. My friend just kept saying, "Can we win this? Can we win this?" The poll closed and we started walking to the bar where we were going to have our satellite election party. That’s when we saw a young man on a skateboard get hit by a car. The young man didn't want to get in an ambulance because he couldn't afford it. He didn't want to go to the hospital because he was afraid he couldn't afford the emergency room bill. He was a 19. He was Latino. His first concern was affording medical care. We saw right in front of us how important someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is. One of the bedrocks of her campaign was affordable medical care.

What do you want John Jay students to take away from your experience?
I want our students to know that what made Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez different from every other politician was that she was brave and bold. She was authentic about who she was, and for most establishment types who work within the system, that's a liability. People say you need to wait in line, pay your dues, don't cause too much of a fuss, make sure you are not ruffling any feathers—particularly those of powerful white men. But she didn't wait for permission or her turn. She felt that she had something to contribute and that her experiences as a woman of color, as an immigrant, as someone from the Bronx, were valuable attributes, and she needed to have a seat at the table.