Not a day after criticizing “new white voters” in D.C., longtime political operative Marshall Brown has been ousted from his latest role on Sekou Biddle’s campaign to remain an at-large D.C. Council member, according to multiple campaign sources.
Brown, father of Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown and a friend of Biddle’s family, has been active in city politics over five decades. He said last week that he was helping to organize Biddle’s field operations in wards 4, 5, 7 and 8; he has been paid $5,000 in consulting fees, according campaign finance reports.
Given his familial ties to the chairman, who has been in political deep water lately, Brown’s involvement in the campaign had become an issue — used by Biddle’s opponents as proof of his cozy relations with Kwame Brown. His comments in Marc Fisher’s article on the future of the District’s culture, however, were not made apropos of the campaign. They were, however, stark:
“The longtime white population, the people who got involved in statehood, civil rights and environmental causes, thought of this as a black city,” Brown told Fisher. “But the new white voters aren’t involved like that. They want doggie parks and bike lanes. The result is a lot of tension. ... The new people believe more in their dogs than they do in people. They go into their little cafes, go out and throw their snowballs. This is not the District I knew. There’s no relationship with the black community; they don’t connect at church, they don’t go to the same cafes, they don’t volunteer in the neighborhood school, and a lot of longtime black residents feel threatened.”
The comments appear to have been too divisive for Biddle, who is seeking to cross racial lines in his appeal. The former teacher and education activist lives in a predominantly black neighborhood in Ward 4; his wife is white.
Biddle issued a statement Monday afternoon: “While change can be difficult and at times uncomfortable, these kinds of comments are hurtful. My wife and I choose to raise our children here because of the diversity the city has to offer. Marshall Brown does not speak for me or my campaign and his comments in Marc Fisher’s story do not help move our city forward. While he is a longtime family friend, I found his comments to be counterproductive at a time when I am working so hard to bring people in this city together, and I have asked him to step down from any future involvement in my campaign.”
It’s not the first time Brown has found himself at the center of a racial brouhaha.
In the first month of former Mayor Anthony A. Williams’s administration, in 1999, Brown was in a meeting with fellow mayoral aides John Fanning and David Howard, both white men. Referring to a budgetary matter, Howard referred to the need to be “niggardly” in spending — that is, stingy or miserly.
Brown, however, interpreted it as a variant on the all-too-well-known racial slur and stormed out of the room.
The episode subsequently turned into a major embarrassment to Williams (D), who initially accepted Howard’s resignation and was widely criticized for giving in to a mau-mauing.