Are D.C.’s Black Politicians Being Targeted?

Are D.C.’s Black Politicians Being Targeted?



While the mayor of the District, the chairman of the D.C. Council and a former D.C. Council member have been prosecuted or are under investigation by federal authorities, some D.C. residents don’t believe they’re being targeted because of their race.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), is a subject of a federal investigation into his 2010 mayoral campaign activities and former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown pleaded guilty to bank-loan fraud in federal court and violation of campaign laws in D.C. Superior court on Fri., June 8 while Harry Thomas Jr., a former Ward 5 D.C. Council member, is set to spend 38 months in prison for criminal misuse of $350,000 of public money. Michael Hudgins, a resident of Northwest, said their being Black has nothing to do with their legal problems.

“I do understand why African Americans might feel that way,” said Hudgins, 41. “With the way that the population of African Americans in the city is decreasing there is a sense among some that Black people are being pushed out of the city. I do know that there is tension surrounding Vincent Gray and some African Americans in the city.”

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 increased the number of Black public officials throughout the country exponentially. Ten years after the legislation, there were Black mayors of cities such as the District, Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and smaller Southern cities and towns with strong Black populations.

In addition, the number of Blacks on city and county councils, state legislatures and members of the U.S. House of Representatives also ballooned in size.

However, it was revealed in the October 1996 edition of Emerge magazine, that there has been an effort to obtain incriminating information on Black public officials. The magazine interviewed Robert Moussallem, an FBI informant who spied on the activities of Black elected officials in Atlanta, with the intent of destroying their careers.

Moussallem said that the FBI at the time thought that Blacks were “intellectually and socially incapable of governing major government organizations and institutions.”

Black political office holders, activists and observers often talk about how Black politicians are held to higher standards than their White counterparts. Renee Perry, a resident of Northeast, agrees in principle.

“Why do you have the investigations of Gray and Brown right now?” Perry, 52, asked rhetorically. “Look at what is happening on H Street [Northeast] and look at all of those Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Everything is connected and we are not hearing the whole truth about why Mayor Gray and Kwame Brown are being targeted.”

Perry noted that “the minute Vincent Gray was sworn into office, they attacked his character.”

“I like Vincent Gray and I think he is doing a good job and nobody is perfect,” she said. “I think his predecessor, Adrian Fenty, was more to the liking of White people. Black people who do what White people want them to do tend to be left alone.”

However, Chuck Thies, a political analyst who is White, said that Whites are not out to get Black elected officials.

“I don’t think there is a conspiracy to get Vince Gray out so that the city can have a White mayor,” said Thies, 47. “Since Home Rule, D.C. has always had a Black mayor and even though Blacks are no longer the majority in the city, they are the plurality. I do understand that there are concerns about gentrification and older, working-class Black neighborhoods becoming Whiter.”

Thies, a resident of Northwest, said that Whites in the District tend to be progressive and “are not tea party members.”

Hudgins thinks Thies is right.

“I think that White people are trying to change the city for the better,” he said. “It is the way that they approach it, [that’s] the problem.”

Dorothy Lee, a resident of Northwest, said that Whites are not the problem but the inept behavior of Black elected officials.

“I think that they [Gray, Brown and Thomas] are inexperienced [opposed to] their White counterparts when it comes to doing evil,” Lee said. “Nobody taught them how to be evil. White public officials have a doctorate on doing evil while Blacks just have GEDs.”

Lee is a native of Vicksburg, Miss., and said that she witnessed ugly racial politics “upfront.” Still, she said that “if Vincent Gray and Kwame Brown had integrity, they would not [have fallen] so low.”

“We get caught up stealing money from kids and stuffing money in our panties,” she said. “We entrap our dumb selves.”

— as part of a special arrangement with The Washington Informer