01 Nov 2000 Playing Hide and Seek With Black Voters, by Kevin Martin
Everyone played ” hide and seek” as a child. For black voters, however, the game continues every election. This year was no exception.
Democratic leaders and their black allies “hide” equal justice and civil rights issues in campaigns for black voters to seek, and they use them to win their support. This year, these issues included police brutality, racial profiling, hate crime legislation and Confederate heritage displays. I question why these concerns only arose close to election time.
The NAACP continues its boycott of South Carolina over the Confederate Battle Flag. The group succeeded in moving the flag from atop the Statehouse to the grounds, but is now pushing for its complete removal from sight. The NAACP also pressured Texas Governor and Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush to remove commemorative plaques in some state buildings in Texas that contained that same flag. Bush did the right thing and replaced the plaques.
What’s wrong with the NAACP’s actions? Nothing; the problem is that they were being partisan in their outrage. They did not, for example, call upon Democratic nominee Al Gore to pressure his home-state legislators in Tennessee to remove KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest’s name from a state park and highway. Black voters were also targeted by commercials featuring a truck dragging a chain behind it along with the voice of James Byrd’s sister criticizing Bush for not supporting hate crime legislation. Byrd was dragged to death behind a truck driven by three white men. In my home state of Maryland – which is also the home of the NAACP – there was barely a raised eyebrow when two white men harassed a carload of elderly black women for 20 miles and finally loosed a shotgun blast at close range which ended the life of one of the women. Maryland has hate crimes legislation on the books, but both suspects were only charged with second-degree murder. But it also has a Democrat governor and a member of the Kennedy family serving as lieutenant governor. That seemed to make a difference. It appears that if you are a Democrat, you get a free ride from the NAACP. If you are a Republican, stand by to stand by.
The same rule applied to police brutality. In Philadelphia (black, Democratic mayor), there was an appeal for calm this past summer when an escaping black criminal was caught and beaten by white and black officers and caught on tape. In New York City (white, Republican mayor running for Senate against First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the time), however, Al Sharpton and others took their high-profile protest to City Hall and Washington when officers shot a black man to death in a confusing and regrettable melee. There is no excuse for police brutality, but the selective and partisan outrage in these cases ought to be a crime as well.
There also seems to be a willingness to accommodate Democrats on the issues of racial profiling. During the campaign, Gore promised that, if elected, he would sign an executive order outlawing it. Racial profiling has been at the forefront of the news for years now. Why didn’t he call upon President Bill Clinton to sign an executive order earlier? Why would blacks have to wait until after the election for racial profiling to be outlawed? It seemed to be little more than a campaign issue for Gore, and its exploitation went unchallenged.
In Washington, the Congressional Black Caucus seems willing to withhold their support from 38 former and current Secret Service agents who claim in a federal lawsuit that they were victims of racism from within the Clinton White House. When CBC member Cynthia McKinney did accuse Gore of having a low “Negro Tolerance Level” when it was reported that he knew of limits on the number of black agents on his security detail, outraged Democratic leaders pressured her to retract her words.
The time has long since passed for our so-called black leaders to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards they hold the Republican Party to when it comes to the issues that are most important to us. If I wanted to play hide and seek, I would go play it with my three-year-old cousin. It is time for Democrats to stop treating us like children on a playground, and for our leaders to stand up for our beliefs.
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.