Black According to Whom?

By Valentine, Victoria L. | The New Crisis, September/October 2002 | Go to article overview

Black According to Whom?


Valentine, Victoria L., The New Crisis


Editor's Note

This election season there were a number of heated contests in which Black incumbents faced Black challengers. In these races pitting Democrats against one another, most of the focus has been on the fact that the incumbents have been political veterans who have rarely faced real competition and their challengers have often been younger, relatively green candidates.

But there are other qualities about the opponents that the veteran politicians have exploited in their efforts to hold onto the support of their constituents. The political establishment has characterized the challengers as not authentically Black, an indictment once only lavished (with equal ridiculousness) on Black Republicans.

The newcomers are liberal like their opponents, but because they may have attended Ivy League schools, haven't grown up poor enough, have a diverse base of support and may be more moderate on key issues, they are being cast as not Black enough.

Some young politicians, including Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) and former Newark City Councilman Cory Booker are open to ideas in education reform, that are controversial to civil rights veterans who fought to integrate public schools. And candidates such as Denise Majette, who defeated Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary for the 4th district of Georgia, and Artur Davis, who successfully challenged Rep. Earl F Hilliard (D-Ala.) for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, have courted controversy in the Black establishment because their campaigns were significantly supported by Whites and Jewish organizations outraged at their opponents' views on the Middle East. Rev. Al Sharpton, campaigning in Birmingham for Hilliard, said, "Everybody that's our color is not our kind. Everybody that's our skinfolk is not our kinfolk."

The most poignant example occurred in this season's mayoral election in Newark, N.J. Mayor Sharpe James, who has served since 1986, faced a viable opponent in 33-year-old Booker, a tenant lawyer who had already beaten a four-term incumbent for a seat on the city council. …

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