The Democratic Party has been foolish in its rush to question and attack U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake’s commitment to civil and human rights, all in the name of defending black South Africans. The argument offered up by the party that most black Americans hold membership in today, sadly reminds many of those same blacks of the positions the party had taken in the 1940s and 1960s.
Hypocritical and offensive positions claiming moral superiority, the kind of self-righteous judgment passed by bourgeois white liberals who themselves are often the worst kind of oppressors. The great white defenders of virtue, who see quite clearly the plight of poor, colored, and oppressed natives of foreign soil. Yet, at the same time are sinfully, sickeningly, and conveniently blind to the same economic, political, and social abuses committed against the colored populations in this nation, often within their own “spheres of influence.”
Not once has the local black community been approached in this election cycle by the Arizona Democratic Party in a formal and intentional way to candidly and sincerely assess its need for and frustrations with the lack of financial, educational, and political progress being made in Arizona. Instead, black Arizonans are witnessing a painful repeat of history. Like the invisible black veterans of World War II and the unsung legions of blacks heroes of the civil rights movement, black voters today are watching the Democratic Party stand up for the dignity of blacks abroad while sitting out the struggle for equity, equality, and employment for blacks here at home.
Black voters endure, tasting the familiar bitter tears dripping from their collective mind’s eye, as their African cousins are used, like pawns or expendable political property, to advance a “lily-white liberal” electoral agenda. Convincing themselves, again, that being “played” by the party is some sort of inescapable plantation ritual or mandatory generational rite of passage for progressive blacks. Now, you will not hear this from the “happy to be here” Negro leadership of today or as the great Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. would say, “the handkerchief head, yassa’ mista’ Charlie, token black leaders…” in and out of the party.
However, in the heart of the ghetto, in the pews of poor black churches, in labor halls, pool halls, fraternal clubs, and veterans’
posts you will hear it. The great love and high hopes for, but deep dissatisfaction with the party of Brother Roosevelt and Brother Kennedy.
Obama’s election was an impressive and historic moment in time for black America, but it was not the beginning or the end of the journey to political deliverance and the kind of substantive change the black masses are still waiting for. Just as Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court did not stop the black community’s legal battles for social justice, Obama’s election and likely re-election will not end the pursuit of the dream of Dr. King. Whether or not the local Democratic Party leadership understands this is unclear, but a quote from a classic Janet Jackson song that sums up the big question in the mind of many loyal local black Democrats just might help them to:
“What have you done for me lately?”
Attacking Flake’s record is understandable, acceptable and anticipated, but it cannot be the soul and substance of the race for one of Arizona’s Senate seats. Especially if it includes the devious use of racially charged allegations by white Democrat leaders who have yet to muster a serious commitment for or real plan to improve the lives of black Arizonans. Black Arizonans with more of their young men in state prisons than enrolled in state universities, double the unemployment rate of white Arizonans, no one of their color in the state House of Representatives, and unfairly limited or “redlined”
access to capital for the purchasing of homes or the starting of small businesses. I pray Fannie Lou Hammer’s party remembers that the work starts at home, because in 2012 black Arizona is “sick and tired of being sick and tired…”
— Rev. Jarrett B. Maupin II is a Valley civil rights activist and Baptist minister.