Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A white member of the House with a majority of black constituents will not be joining the Congressional Black Caucus (Politico).

Stephen Cohen of Tennessee seems to be very mature about the whole issue. Of course he doesn't want to burn the very bridges he is trying to forge. But you have to ask yourself whether the Congressional Black Caucus is under threat of becoming "diluted", enough so that it would have to reject this new House member who is only trying to work with other lawmakers to benefit his constituents. (maybe they are preventing a deluge of white members?) Considering that they haven't had any non-black members up until now, it seems that they are acting too cautiously, and this may send the message that the group is practicing reverse racism.

Now, we have to understand that this is not a question of one half of the population excluding the other half; minorities need to band together sometimes in order have their voice heard, so that they are not drowned out by the majority. I can imagine issues that would be specific to the minority where it might make sense to exclude. "Sickle cell anemia funding" for instance. But even so, Mr. Cohen would still be working for his black consitutents in supporting such initiatives.

What is worrying are statements like the following from Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo): "It's an unwritten rule. It's understood. It's clear [that only African-Americans may belong to the Congressional Black Caucus]."

Unwritten rules are often ones that are embarrassing if they were written down ["we are excluding people from our group on the basis of race"]. Full transparency on just who may or may not belong to the Congressional Black Caucus would be the best way for the group to be honest about how they run their organization, and it would also avoid these kinds of "faux pas" (as the article put it) in the future.

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