Race Matters And Black Elected Officials

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[New York Politics]

From Gov. Pinchbach, 1872 to Gov. Paterson, 2008: Race Still Matters!

The Attorney General’s Office has commenced an investigation of Governor David Paterson regarding allegations of domestic violence involving one of his top aides.

I say, let the investigation take its course! Let us not be the judge, jury and executioners and under no circumstances should we let the Governor be tried by the media. If they come for him in the morning, they will come for you in the evening.

If it is discovered that the young woman involved in this case was violated or abused, then none of us should protect anyone who violates a woman. 

Long before these recent allegations, the attacks on Governor Paterson were relentless and unfounded. The same kind of attacks of “incompetence”; “lacks leadership ability”; “inexperienced”;  “unprepared”; just to name a few, were brought against President Barack Obama, Mayor David Dinkins and now Governor Paterson. What these three men have in common – they’re Black, and were elected into executive government positions, in a White male dominated racist society.

A Post-racial society, please - don’t be fooled, race still matters! For those of you who want to say I’m playing the race card; then you need to know that I pulled that card straight out of America’s racist deck.  

I find it interesting to say the least, that there have only been four Black Governors in America’s history. Two ascended to the Governor’s position, P.B.S. Pinchback of Louisiana in 1872, and David Paterson of New York in 2008. The other two were elected, Governors Douglas Wilder of Virginia in 1990 and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts in 2007. Only four Black Governors ever in the history of the United States. 

Lest we forget, during the Black Reconstruction Era, 1865 – 1880, whites from the north, poor whites in the south and freed Africans formed a coalition to gain political power. During that period of time, newly freed Africans occupied over 600 seats in state legislative bodies: US Senate seats, US House of Representative seats, Judgeships, Commissioners, Sheriffs and Lieutenant Governors.

These Black elected officials contributed to this nation, public education; public hospitals; and public aide; to name a few.  The one position that the White man said Blacks could not occupy, was the State Governor’s office. That was reserved for White men only!! 

In 1872, P.B.S. Pinchback, a newly freed Black man, became Lieutenant Governor of the state of Louisiana. The White male Governor of Louisiana, Henry Clay Warmoth was removed from office due to impeachment charges. Pinchback succeeded him as Governor on December 9, 1872 for thirty-five days, to the end of Warmoth’s term.  Due to vicious hate mail, false accusations, threats to his life and white resentment, Pinchback the first Black Governor of the United States of America, could not run for the office of Governor of the state of Louisiana . During the Black Reconstruction Era, whites complained about Blacks having too much power, Blacks being incompetent, Blacks being lazy (remember they said Gov. Paterson only came to work from 10am – 6pm), Blacks were inferior; Blacks were not leaders, etc.  In 1877, during the Rutherford B. Hayes Compromise, Blacks were, “put back in their place” and lost their political power, land and businesses. My, my, my, it seems as though the leopard never changes its’ spots. 
Now let’s fast forward, my former colleagues in the City Council, Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio have a lot of nerve. How dare they arrogantly, through the media, tell Governor Paterson, a Black leader to step down, during Black History Month, without consulting with Black leadership or the Black community. Without securing the Black vote, neither of them would be in office. This is a blatant act of disrespect. They feel embolden to engage in this issue because no one is going to challenge them and put them in check. Well check yourselves gentleman, you are out of line. I give Comptroller John Liu credit for redeeming himself by showing up to the Black and Latino leadership meeting held in Harlem. He committed himself to support the position the group agreed upon and to work with Governor Paterson throughout his remaining time in office. He agreed to support our urban agenda on issues that include: job creation, health care, education, entrepreneurship and small business. Greater details are forthcoming, once we meet with Governor Paterson. 

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is a bird of a different feather. I believe he is a closet Andrew Cuomo supporter and a political opportunist. Enough said!!
As far as those Black leaders that are calling for Governor Paterson to step down, I say once again, let the investigation take its course. The Governor is innocent until proven guilty, if there was any wrong doing, then let it come out of the investigation and let the chips fall where they may.
By the way, where were your calls for President Bill Clinton to step down during his sex scandal impeachment process? He lied and was engaged in sexual misconduct. As was said at the Harlem meeting, if President Bill Clinton can govern fifty states
under impeachment, then Governor Paterson can govern one state while under investigation.  Where were your calls for Senator Joe Bruno to step down? He was under investigation and later convicted. Where were your calls for Speaker Sheldon
Silver to step down? His staff member was arrested in the Chambers on accusations of sexual abuse. Where were your calls for Speaker Quinn to step down? She is engaged in an ongoing investigation surrounding the funding of council programs and the funding of organizations that didn’t exist. Let’s play the game by the same set of rules. Governor Paterson should not be tried by the media. 

What kind of Governor has David Paterson been? Let’s check some of his record:
•     He increased a number of contracts for people of color and women-owned businesses. More than any other Governor.
•     He increased the number of people of color selected to serve as judges on the Appellate Court. More than any other Governor.
•     Under his watch, the Rockefeller Drug Laws were reformed and enacted. 
•     He kept the states bonding credibility intact, during this economic crisis, which he inherited from former Governor Spitzer. A monumental achievement.
•     He initiated policies that protected families experiencing foreclosure.
•     He increased the age to 29 years so that youth can continue to receive health care coverage. 
My criticisms of Governor Paterson:
•     He severely cut state aid to CUNY and SUNY colleges
•     He reduced the maximum by $1,000 that CUNY and SUNY students can receive from the tuition assistance program (TAP); he eliminated TAP funds for graduate students and cut $75 from each TAP recipient
•     He proposed to give the power to raise tuition to the CUNY/SUNY board of trustees, instead of leaving it in state control
•     No CUNY/SUNY Tuition Hikes
•     He cut the summer youth jobs program (he has committed to restore this cut)
•     He cut the Metrocard program for students (he has committed to restore this cut)
•     His cuts to healthcare must be restored.
•     He appointed Kirsten Gilibrand as the Senator to replace Hilary Clinton. What was that about? He should have appointed a Black or Latino. There is only one Black elected official in the US Senate and he will be gone soon. 

These cuts and others are unconscionable and unacceptable, we must demand their restoration. Lastly, we should not let Attorney General Andrew Cuomo go uncontested for the Governor’s office. How about Carl McCall for Governor?  They owe us that one. We plan to explore the issues surrounding Governor Paterson and the agenda for the Black community at Sista’s Place located at 456 Nostrand Avenue, (on the corner of Jefferson Avenue ) on Saturday., March 20th from 3pm –6pm. For more information call 718.398.1766. 
On NY1, a reporter asked passerby’s in the streets if they thought Governor Paterson should resign. A Black woman emphatically stated, “No”, saying that, “there were people in office, who have done worse”. They asked a White man, and he stated, “I had a feeling before these allegations, that he didn’t belong in that office. It was just a feeling.” A feeling!! What does that mean?…hmmm…They were slamming Gov.

Paterson long before these recent allegations. Irrespective of the conclusions of this investigation always remember, “Race Still Matters”.  The Struggle Continues.

Charles Barron is a New York City Council Member


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