Judging by the Color of Their Skin (Not by the Content of Their Character)

I came across a striking article on msnbc.com that I strongly urge you to read. I’ll try to summarize in the following paragraph, but please click the hyperlink above to read the story. My own commentary follows the summary.

The story centers on the race for the congressional seat in the 11th District of New York to highlight the evolvement of representation dynamics in traditionally minority-controlled congressional districts. It no longer is a given that all the candidates in such a district will reflect the majority ethnicity in the district, according to the article by the Washington Post’s Shailagh Murray. In the New York contest, candidate David Yassky is running against three African-Americans in the primary in this predominantly African-American district. Yassky’s politics are popular with his audience, but he suffers from a case of being Caucasian. This has drawn some very un-comlimentary remarks from Black Democratic Leadership. The retiring incumbent has called Yassky a “colonizer,” while the erstwhile White House aspirant Al Sharpton has urged White Democrats to oppose Yassky’s candidacy.

End of summary; enter the People’s Champ. Why, pray tell, must we concern ourselves with the skin color of our aspirants to public office? We see these minority districts created in the past to encourage minority representation, and they have done their job. According to Murray’s piece, “in the past 3 1/2 decades, the number of black-held House seats has increased fourfold, from 10 in 1970 to 40 today.” That’s fantastic. But what happens when demographic changes in these districts come to, in Murray’s words again, “spark racially polarized politics, pitting blacks against other minorities and whites…?” Party lines are bisected by ethnic lines, and the issue thus becomes muddy.

But whether the district is majority-black as in New York’s 11th district, or majority Hispanic with strong White and Asian minorities–who cares? I thought that we were supposed to judge people by the content of their character, as Dr. King implored us. “Don’t judge me by my race but by my record,” said Stephen Cohen, a Tennessee candidate in a situation almost identical to Yassky’s. As our nation struggles some fifty years after the onset of the civil rights movement to erase discrimination, it does nothing to further Dr. King’s noble goal when Democratic leaders like Sharpton and others condemn candidates who share ideologies but not skin color.

I may have missed something along the way, but it seems all too simple here. Vote for the best man or woman for the job. If you honestly doubt that he or she can relate to your needs because they are of a different ethnicity, then vote accordingly. You do not need a Democratic Party leader to tell you not to vote for a member of their own party simply because he or she is not of your race. That is irresponsible and serves no purpose other than to aggravate racial tensions.

I don’t care what color your skin is. If I like your politics, you have my vote.