Black Democrats and Mr. Steele

Friday, November 3, 2006

The Oct. 31 Metro article "Black Democrats Cross Party Lines to Back Steele for U.S. Senate" reported that many of Prince George's County's most prominent politicians have endorsed Republican Michael S. Steele over Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin in the Maryland Senate race. I found the article quite disturbing.

The rationale given by these black Democrats for supporting Mr. Steele was that they feel the Democratic Party has taken black voters for granted. But the record of the Democrats in Congress, especially when compared with that of the Republicans, does not support this conclusion. The Democrats have consistently been in favor of laws and policies that appeal directly to the black electorate. If leading black Democrats think supporting a Republican for the Senate is a way to help black voters, they are seriously mistaken.

I also find it offensive that they would expect voters to choose a candidate based on race instead of on issues. It leads to a disturbing question that I'm sure these politicians do not want to hear: Should white voters vote for Mr. Cardin simply because he is white?




Two articles that appeared in the Metro section on Oct. 31, "Chronic Troubles at Youth Jails Haunt Campaign," about Maryland's shameful juvenile justice system, and "Black Democrats Cross Party Lines to Back Steele for U.S. Senate," about the defection of African American Democrats in Prince George's County, show again that people of color are terribly overrepresented in jails but woefully underrepresented in statewide office.

The five Prince George's leaders who endorsed Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele are not only dismissing distinguished candidates such as Del. Anthony G. Brown, who is running for lieutenant governor, but are also ignoring the overwhelming diversity of Democrats in the General Assembly and local offices.

Moreover, they are excusing the worsening travesty in juvenile justice under Mr. Steele and Juvenile Services Secretary Kenneth C. Montague Jr., both of whom are African American. Where is their outrage at the disproportionate number of African American youths denied their civil and constitutional rights when they are subjected to appalling services and horrific abuse?

Leaders in both parties need to be honest and vocal about the subtle forms of racism that cause too many people of color to be incarcerated and too few to be elected.



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