Robert L. Woodson, Sr. on Steele Race Attacks

Published November 4, 2005

The, racial, ad hominem attacks on Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele by the state’s Democratic black leadership do a tremendous disservice to the black community. They suffocate debate and impose a gag rule.

Steele, Maryland’s most successful and prominent black politician, has been pelted with Oreo cookies, called an “Uncle Tom,” depicted as a black-faced minstrel, and referred to as “Simple Sambo” on a liberal weblog. Maryland’s black Democrats have no problem with these racial attacks. A campaign spokesman for Kweisi Mfume, also running for the Senate, is quoted as saying “There is a difference between pointing out the obvious and calling someone names.” State Senator Lisa Gladden, another black Democrat, says that “Party trumps race at the national level.” Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, says Steele invites comparisons to a slave who loves his cruel master or a cookie that is black on the outside and white inside because of his conservative political philosophy.

Thank God these folks were not around in our early history. A hundred years ago and less, there was healthy and open debate between the political activists led by W.E.B. DuBois, the accommodationists led by Booker T. Washington, and the separatists led by Marcus Garvey. Black progress was helped by the quality of the debate within the black community, because it produced sound policies that were honed by open discussion.

There are huge challenges facing black America today black-on-black crime and violence, out-of-wedlock births, failing educational systems. Many of these problems have continued to fester in the last 30 years in predominantly black cities controlled by black Democrats. These are the issues around which there should be thoughtful debate. Political leaders should be welcoming the airing of alternative policies that could lead to development of fresh new solutions.

Honest political debate is healthy. No matter who wins, the people suffering the most are the eventual winners. This is the playing field on which we should bring forth our legitimate views on how these problems should be addressed. We should not be playing in this nasty pit of political partisanship and selective racism we are seeing in Maryland today.

Robert L. Woodson, Sr., is founder and president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE).