D.C. COUNCIL member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) is not the first District official, nor sadly is she likely to be the last, to try to use race to her advantage. But her awkward comments about the role that race will play in the city’s upcoming election and voters wanting their “own” should not go unchallenged.
Ms. Bonds appeared Monday on WAMU-FM’s “Kojo Nnamdi Show” with the five other candidates vying for the citywide seat in the April 23 special election. She was asked about recent comments by a union official endorsing her. The official said there is a strong desire within the black community that the seat be held by an African American.
“Happy to hear that,” was Ms. Bonds’s response. She said, “People want to have their leadership reflect who they are” and longtime residents “fear” being pushed out by the city’s changing demographics. “The majority of the District of Columbia is African American. . . . There is a natural tendency to want your own,” she said. Ms. Bonds, The Post’s Tim Craig reported, appears to be trying to rally black voters to her bid by noting that the council, now with seven white and six black members, has never had eight white members.
Ms. Bonds told us she is aghast that anyone would interpret her remarks as a plea to vote for her solely because of her race; she said she was merely expressing appreciation about having received the union endorsement. Her spokesman stressed that the campaign has never used race as a basis to garner votes and that the council member was simply responding to a direct question that should not be taken out of context. “Councilwoman Bonds is running to represent the entire city,” said Jermaine House, who argued that it’s the media that have focused on race after the only other mainstream African American candidate, former council member Michael A. Brown (D), ended his candidacy.
Mr. House may have a point about the media, and clearly Ms. Bonds is correct that voters are drawn to candidates whom they see as reflecting them and their interests. Nothing wrong with that. But the failure of Ms. Bonds to make clear that a candidate’s skin color should not be the determining factor was disappointing, particularly since the council on which she hopes to continue to serve will have to deal with challenges confronting a city undergoing dramatic demographic change. Asked about housing and poverty, she said: “I am an African American, black candidate, and I am proud of having that as my issue.”
It was left to host Kojo Nnamdi, who is black, to make the point that skin color is no guarantor of any particular political viewpoint nor a predictor, one way or another, of ability.