Race, Politics, and the New Black Leadership in Maryland
Before I begin, I have an admission to make. I'm white. So white that one of my black students told me the other day, "Mr. Luedtke, you're way too white to dance." Which is true. Especially the part about the dancing. So I'm not presuming much authority on what I'm about to say.
But for a long time, I've felt that the Democratic Party has taken African-Americans for granted. Latinos too, though that's for another blog post. For me, it comes down to this: almost all of my students are either Latino or African-American, a lot of them live in poverty, and their needs aren't being met by their government. We aren't doing enough to close the achievement gap. We haven't done enough to support minority-owned businesses and economic development that would help raise families out of poverty. There are huge gaps in health care to minority communities. And a big part of the problem, I think, is that there are few political leaders who can truly speak for my students.
Let me say it another way - race matters. As a white man, I can never really understand the issues involved in being a minority. I can try, I can read minority authors, I can get to know members of minority groups, but I can never truly understand what it's like to be black or hispanic. For the same reason, white political leaders can work hard to address the needs of minority communities, but they can never truly speak from the perspective of those minority communities. We need to elect more black leaders, people who, in addition to being great leaders in their own right, can speak from that perspective.
Which, among a lot of reasons relating to issues, is one reason why I've supported political leaders like Kweisi Mfume, Ike Leggett, Valerie Ervin, and a number of local African-American candidates for office.
But Wayne Curry is dead wrong - Michael Steele is not a good leader, and he will not speak for the vast majority of Maryland's African-Americans. And furthermore, the Maryland Democratic Party is making progress in supporting African-American candidates. Slowly, to be sure, but there's progress nonetheless.
On the latter point, note the following; if Kweisi Mfume runs for Mayor of Baltimore, the executives of Maryland's three largest jurisdictions will be led by black leaders for the first time in history, including majority-white Montgomery County. Not to mention Anthony Brown becoming Lieutenant Governor, and the most likely Democratic candidate for Governor in eight years. Not to mention the host of African-Americans who have been waging, and often winning, competitive campaigns for local office in majority-white districts.
But back to Steele. Any list of issues important to African-Americans will include one issue which Mike Steele supports (supporting minority economic development) and a dozen issues which he does not. On education, gun control, the drug war, etc., etc., Steele is way off the mark. Which makes Wayne Curry's position a little ridiculous. If Curry and his gaggle of councilmembers want to see more strong African-American leaders win elected office, they should be searching out and supporting them. They should not be supporting a candidate who doesn't care about their issues, just because he happens to be black. They should be judging candidates by the content of their character rather than simply by the color of their skin.
Not that their endorsement will have much effect. Black voters are much smarter than Curry and the Republicans give them credit for. The vast majority of black voters will vote their conscience on the issues, regardless of the failure of leadership shown by Curry and the treacherous five.
Regardless of Curry's failure, we need to support the next generation of real African-American leaders in Maryland and across the country. Please take the time to donate to one of the following: Anthony Brown, Ike Leggett, Valerie Ervin, Harold Ford, Barack Obama.
Update: Roll Call has an article on Cardin's reponse to the endorsements.