“When the House voted last Thursday to find Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress, members of the Congressional Black Caucus walked out. Why is the Black Caucus trying to make this about race?” — Racial Politics Thicker Than Justice by Star Parker
As usual in life: The truth is more complicated than the political cartoon version presented. The cartoon: Black members of Congress “cry racism” on Holder contempt vote and protest. The truth: No one said anything about racism. Further, out of about 85 to 90 members of Congress who walked out of the House chamber last Thursday to protest the contempt vote, 51 were not members of the Black Caucus. The group protesting was made up of the CBC, the Hispanic Caucus, the Asian Caucus and about 35 House Democrats who aren’t members of any of the minority caucuses. Those “other liberal members of Congress,” Rep. West refers to totalled more than the Black Caucus members at the protest.
And it gets better: Not only did none of the members mention race as a factor in the Holder contempt controversy — a few members bent backwards to say race had nothing to do with it. Two specifically said the confrontation between Holder and House Republicans was not about race and instead blamed partisan politics.
“This is not about race,” said Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in separate statements. Parker and West must have missed that part — but dealing in reality messes up their “race baiter” narrative. Why is the Black Caucus trying to make this about race,” asks Parker (who wasn’t there) in a recent column. Tea Party bloggers love this narrative — whether it’s tru or not would appear not to matter in the case of the Holder protest. The mention that the Black Caucus conceived of the protest is all they needed to hear.
That non Caucus members Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Steve Israel (D-NY), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Adam Schiff (D-VA) and John Olver (D-MA) along with over 30 other members who are not in the Black Caucus walked off the House floor last Thursday went almost unnoticed. In today’s political world of created reality and cartoon characterizations you learn you have to be present in person at events to know exactly what happened.
Leaving Rep. West and Parker’s misinformation aside, the new racial politics against anyone who dares to mention the subject of race (unlike in this case) as a factor in anything is increasingly visible. The game is simple: Accuse the person mentioning race of being a “race baiter” and of “crying racism” and ignore all facts showing race related disparities in American life. This strategy has become the new way to combat any mention of race whatsoever. So never mind statistics we’ve seen year after year showing sentencing disparities between Blacks and Whites for the exact same crimes and for application of the death penalty. Ignore that out of 685,724 people stopped by the NYPD in 2011, 574,483 — 87% of the stops — were of Black or Latino New Yorkers. You’d be a “race baiter” to mention such numbers to some in today’s politics.
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Managing Editor, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She can be heard every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WPFW 89.3 every Friday at 6:30 p.m. Ms. Burke is a former employee of USA Today and ABC News. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter at @crewof42.