Sunday, July 28, 2019

Not About Us

Here’s a message for those who say that local politicians should stay in their own lane and should have nothing to say about national issues:

Are you getting it yet?

Have you figured out that you can be going along, minding your own business, and national politics can just up and punch you in the nose?

Yesterday seems like a good example. Tweets by a sitting president, targeting a duly elected representative and his district, polluted both the national and local conversation.

I’ve seen plenty of well-meaning people pushing back by pointing out that Elijah Cummings’ district includes Columbia and Howard County. They feel his comments show Trump’s ignorance. They want people to know they love their home. It’s not dirty or “infested.”

I respectfully counter that this misses the mark. The ugly words we are all talking about are based on a simple assumption: that a Black man could only be representing an urban district, and that an urban district is full of Black and Brown people, and is, by default, dirty, poor, crime-infested, and violent. This is racism with a fine-pointed laser beam of hatred.

It was not meant for us.

I’ve also seen comments accusing Mr. Cummings of living in an affluent section of Howard County. The assumption is that he should be living in his “real district”. You know, the poor, Black part. Their responses make it clear that Trump knows exactly who he is speaking for: a racist base who want to see people of color removed from positions of power or simply marginalized by slurs like the ones spewed forth yesterday.

The truth of the matter is this: Mr. Cummings is no more responsible for the state of west Baltimore than he is the affluence of Howard County. It is his job to represent them. He did not create them.And both the poverty of west Baltimore and the wealth of Howard County exist because of the decisions of White people, generations and generations of them.

We are white, and live comfortably in the 7th district; this is not about us. It is about an attempt to delegitimize a Black congressman by suggesting that his Black and Brown constituents are less than human because of issues they had no hand in causing.

White people created distinctions that withheld wealth, and power, and equal rights from some, while consolidating it for themselves. And now a White man seeks to shame a Black man who dares to be his equal.

And that’s what the President’s tweets are all about, Charlie Brown.

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