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Real blacks don't eat quiche

Last week, NAACP head Julian Bond denounced those who argued that Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams "isn't black enough."

Silly charges about adherence to an imaginary black aesthetic based on college choices, speech patterns, clothing styles and leisure activities cheapen the political process. They reflect an unhealthy insecurity in those who make them -- and in those who reject them, a healthy respect for democracy.

African Americans properly reject as racist allegations from others that we all think, look and act alike. Why should we impose these reactionary notions on one another?

It's hard to imagine anybody who could disagree with that. And yet, never underestimate the power of identity politics, as Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy did precisely that:
Now, I may have some unhealthy insecurities as to whether Mayor Williams is black enough, but they are not based so much on how he talks as what he says. To be black enough simply means being able to connect with black people, to speak to their needs, hopes and fears -- especially when other, more powerful constituencies are competing for attention.
So, in other words, black people all think alike and say the same things. If you don't, you're not a real black. And of course, real black politicians cater only to their black constituents, not to "more powerful" ones. So isn't that an argument that no non-black should vote for a "real black" politician?
Now a new day is dawning, and it is not at all clear whether the concerns of ordinary blacks will even be heard, let alone acted on.

At the luncheon, Wilson, who is a long-shot contender for Williams's job in the Democratic primary, criticized the mayor for not doing something about the long lines at some Department of Motor Vehicles stations.

Williams responded by explaining that the long lines were the result of the DMV "screening people who haven't settled their accounts."

In other words, forget the inconvenience. What makes Williams proud is the coldly efficient way that his network of computers goes about snaring residents who owe the city. Anyone with, say, $1,500 in outstanding taxes cannot get a driver's license renewed until the bill is paid.

For the District's new well-to-do, that may be chump change. But for many others, that's more than a month's pay.

So, in short, real black people are poor, and bad at financial management. I'd sure as heck be the last to defend a department of motor vehicles anywhere on earth, but what it has to do with racial politics escapes me. But Milloy continues:
The inability to anticipate the pain of such actions, and to come up with more reasonable ways for struggling residents to pay, shows a particular kind of insensitivity. It wouldn't matter whether the politician who reveled in such a moneymaking scheme wore a dashiki; he still wouldn't be black enough.
Again, you're not going to find me defending current levels of taxation, but aren't we getting a little silly? Taxes are not a moneymaking "scheme." And what is this inanity about the "pain" of these actions? White people are cold and heartless and don't care how others feel, while black people do?
Wilson also characterized the mayor's leadership as "dishonest" and "untrustworthy." Now, most black people I know, when called a liar to their face, would offer a quick retort -- or at least an evil eye.

But Williams reacted the way most Ivy League white men would do in a similar situation: He was oblivious. And when Deputy Editorial Page Editor Colby King, who is black, asked him to explain that nonreaction, the mayor first dismissed Wilson's remarks as unworthy of comment. But then he stared meekly at his plate and began talking about how much tourism had increased and how many people had showed up for the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Definitely not black enough.

So black people also lack self-control. And of course they're not Ivy Leaguers.

John Rocker never said anything which approached the outrageous bigotry of this column -- and he was merely a baseball player. Courtland Milloy works for one of the preeminent newspapers in the United States, and is paid specifically to express his opinion. And yet Rocker was punished for his remarks, while Milloy's escaped notice.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 10, 2002 3:54 AM.

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