“..cause its all about progression/loiterers should be arrested” – Jay Z from “On to the Next One”
There are a million ways to make a lot of money in this country, and politics should not be one. So this week is simply my short riff on how the love of money is leading to the downfall of a few Black elected officials. Yes, I know, the love of money is leading to the downfall of many elected officials across race.
But as a blogger for Politic365, I am primarily concerned with how its affecting those small few numbers of people elected to represent the 13% of the U.S. population to which I belong –Black folks.
Charles Rangel’s alleged ethics violations is the most troubling (and recent) example.
Rangel, who in his youth, dethroned the once powerful Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. to dominate Harlem politics for over 40 years and ascend to the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means committee (the tax code making body in Congress) is now roiled in scandal about allegedly exploiting tax-loop holes and squirreling rent money on condos in the Dominican Republic, to name a few.
The full ethics investigation is underway, and more will be reported on the exact charges in the coming days. But whatever the outcome, its disappointing to see this get to the level of a full ethics investigation, and that all this work over decades could go down the political drain. Rangel grew into that role and there are not many senior Black representatives qualified to assume that particular position in the near future.
Indeed, it is troubling and embarrassing to have our black elected leadership wrapped in small change schemes that yield little to any significant money (accept for him/herself) yet destroy a lot of political gains, sacrifice from decades of grass roots struggle and trust among the people they serve.
From Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana, the first black elected official since Reconstruction, hiding bribe money in a freezer, to Kwame Kilpatrick, fallen mayor of an economically dying Detroit, doing a never-ending perp walk from the courthouse to the jailhouse because of the chronic underreporting of his real assets after his perjury conviction, the recent “PDG” (public displays greed) are becoming increasingly sillier.
While this public spectacle continues via news outlets, Black voter discouragement continues since the 2000 election and the battle to eliminate felon disenfranchisement as a result of the New Jim Crow is ongoing.
Now, if you are also wondering if I am holding Black elected officials to a higher ethical standard than I would white electeds, I am not. Any one voted into public office to shape policies and laws that govern my life must be held to the standard where personal greed does not substitute service to the wider public.
I do admit, however, that I hold Black elected officials accountable for remembering history. And the Black freedom struggle for the right to vote and have representation in government was never about money or individual gain. Its was about political progression, about expanding the democratic experiment for those who helped build this country.
And if any Black elected official is loitering in the halls of government, holding back the progress of people because they are busy chasing the dollar, then we should be on the next one who will truly do the job.