Friday, May 30, 2008

The majority rules, when we say so

Speaking of American citizens voting by race, in 2006, in New York City, all hell broke loose when black Congressman Major Owens announced he would not run for another term in the House of Representatives. Owens had represented Brooklyn's 11th District for two decades. His unexpected retirement sent the black political machine into a frenzy, as meetings were quickly called to plan strategies that would insure another black's ascendance to Owens' seat. And when white City Councilman David Yassky declared his candidacy for the post, calls for ethnic solidarity began in earnest.

Prominent blacks worked to galvanize support for the black candidates who had stepped into the ring, and made no bones about the fact that they were determined to prevent a white from obtaining Owens' seat. Blacks, of course, were allowed to be outright in their disdain for the white Yassky, as the New York Times' headlines matter-of-factly blared, "Black Leaders Fear the Loss of a House Seat." (In today's Times, is it likely that we might see the headline: White Leaders Fear the Loss of the Presidency?)

In Brooklyn, black apologists justified their blatant bias on the basis of the 58% majority of blacks in the 11th district, compared to 21% white. One wonders if, in today's voting climate, votes for the U.S. Presidency also can be justified on this basis, with the country's majority population still around 72% white. Majority rules?

David Yassky, who had maintained a decent record as a fair legislator, was vilified as being fueled by "ambition and opportunism." Because Shirley Chisholm had first won the seat in 1969, the district was viewed as having "historical" significance to blacks and, therefore, should be held only by blacks. The pandering Times actually spoke of the "emotional importance" of keeping blacks at the helm.

It was more than inferred that somehow the Voting Rights Act itself was under attack by the very candidacy of the white Yassky. It was kind of amusing to hear people like Rev. Karim Camara suggest that Yassky should not run himself, but should consider how he might earn "a place of higher esteem," if he agreed to support a black candidate. Oh, have the decency to quit, Yassky!

Yassky kept his cool and ran an issues-based campaign, ultimately losing to black City Councilwoman Yvette Clarke.

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