“Is Obama the End of Black Politics?” is an insightful and provocative piece in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine regarding the tension African American elected officials experience serving the needs of a broader and more diverse constituency. In Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, an African American and rising star, this tension is best illustrated. Black ministers were slow to embrace him because of his support of gay marriage. I empathize. My support among black ministers has remained consistently strong. But, shortly after expressing my support for gay marriage, a group of black ministers invited me to a meeting. It would be an understatement to describe that meeting as anything less than paint blistering. My public debate with Reverend Ken Hutcherson, also an African American, was quite tame by comparison. It was Rev. Dr Samuel B McKinney who reminded those present of my responsibilities to the broader community. He noted my decision was secular in nature. Whether one supports Senator Obama, it is important to understand and appreciate the tension between the expectations of the Black community and his need to appeal and serve the interest of a much larger voting public.
Is Obama the End of Black Politics? New York Times
Tim Egan, a Pulitzer Prize and National Book award winner, reported in the New York Times twelve years ago the different approaches that Governor Gary Locke (Asian American), Mayor Norm Rice (African American), and I dealt with race in politics. Even then, race in politics was far more difficult an issue.
The fact that a major party is on the verge of nominating an African American for President, and two African Americans and a person of South Asian descent are sitting governors point to a positive change. Executive Isaiah Leggett of Montgomery County, Maryland, has joined me as the second African American county executive elected from a predominantly white community. America’s view regarding Black elected officials is changing. Black elected officials have broadened their appeal. Race and politics is changing with surprising rapidity.