By Kameko Thomas, HBCU Buzz Staff Writer
During the 2011 political season, in the contest for Louisiana’s House District 3, African American voters were able to see firsthand what blind allegiance to a political party gets them: complete and total disrespect, coupled with an egregious avoidance of all things that remotely resemble accountability and responsibility.
A few years ago, then-first term Louisiana State Representative Barbara Norton turned her state and District 3 residents into the laughingstocks of the nation by inviting barely one-hit wonder Hurricane Chris to perform his song “Halle Berry” for the members of the state legislature.
The event was a debacle not merely for the sheer inappropriateness of the action, but for the reaction Ms. Norton had to the incident: “Louisiana has always been a joke”.
According to Norton, since Louisiana has always been a joke, what does it matter if she adds yet another punch line? To hell with the impact her actions have on the people she represents. To hell with the impact her actions have on African Americans throughout the state. She knew what she did was wrong, and what’s more – by her own admission – she couldn’t have cared less.
The level of partisan disrespect isn’t limited to Louisiana state politics, however. Nationally, some of the most prominent and vocal personalities within the African American community are diametrically “pro-Obama” or “anti-Obama.” Those who tow the pro-Obama party line all sing the same tune: “everything the President does is clever, strategic maneuvering, and if it seems that he isn’t giving his fellow African Americans the time of day, it’s because he can’t really pay attention to our issues until he’s re-elected” is the oft heard and repeated fallback position of those who fancy themselves to be more politically savvy than they should.
It is the purportedly anti-Obama stance that speaks to the deeper issue of disrespect: media personalities Cornel West and Tavis Smiley (some Blacks’ personal feelings about them aside), among others, are decrying that while African Americans came out in unprecedented numbers to help put Mr. Obama in office, he has offered us next to nothing in return.
According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of Black voters cast their votes for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. Yet President Obama – a Democratic Party member alongside Rep. Norton – has repaid his fellow (mostly Black) Democrats by making a priority of other peoples’ issues – gays, most especially – at their expense.
While African American unemployment is 16 percent, 85 percent of African American fourth graders have below proficient reading levels, and the African American male prison population is at a staggering 39.4 percent (based on 2009 numbers), President Obama has been disappointingly silent on issues of importance to his Black constituents. In 2011, when the Congressional Black Caucus dared to mention how slighted the African American constituency felt, his response, `a la Barbara Norton, was to basically tell Blacks “shut the hell up and do what I tell you to.”
While it is a stretch to accuse African Americans of wanting the President to focus solely on their plight (the way some have so very ignorantly stated), it isn’t, however, unrealistic – nor is it unreasonable – for us to want “the first African American President” to put at least some of his focus on issues of importance to the bloc that loves him the hardest and supports him the most, even if that love is unrequited, and the support isn’t reciprocated.
Just like the pimp, the Democratic Party uses us when it’s convenient for them to get what they want, and they’re so “sweet” (read: completely condescending) about it, too: they come to our churches, and other community gathering places, they meet with our civic groups, and they tell us everything they know we want to hear in order for us to “give up the goods”. If it’s dedicated funding for failing inner-city schools, we’re told how unfair the educational disparities are, that they need to be rectified, and they’re the only ones who are up to the task, and that once elected, they will “fight for us”.
If it’s the ever-exponentially growing number of African American males in the prison industrial complex, we’re told how such is system is nothing short of legalized slavery, and that the candidate will put “programs” in place that will reverse the trend, but that can ONLY happen once WE put the candidate in office. If we want the roads in our communities to reflect that actual human beings live in them, and that the same money that’s spent on majority neighborhood roads should also be spent on roads in the inner-city, we’re told that in America, no one should live in a neighborhood that looks bombed out like Afghanistan, and that (you guessed it) all of that WILL CHANGE, but FIRST, we have to give that person our support.
Pimps feed their “new recruits” the same line of bull**** in order to get them to sign up, too.
But, once we do vote for said candidate, what do we get in return? If you’re in Louisiana, specifically in Caddo Parish, you get a state representative who – after running for every office under the sun, including the proverbial dogcatcher – goes to the state capitol and CONSISTENTLY votes for issues that benefit only her.
Why did Barbara Norton cast votes on behalf of absentee legislators (something that isn’t even allowed under Louisiana House rules)? Because she wanted a pay raise. Never mind that Louisiana was slashing the higher education budget – among other things – in order to make ends meet. She wanted more money, and damn it, she was going to get it.
Why did Ms. Norton invite Hurricane Chris to the floor of the Louisiana State Legislature to perform his trashy song? Because she’s his godmother, she wanted to, and she could. Never mind that there were more pressing issues that needed addressing – such as the continued recovery of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, for instance. She wanted to leverage her position to do something for someone that was in her inner circle, so she did.
And, finally, why did Rep. Norton side with Republican legislators – Republican TEA PARTY-backed legislators – and voted with them to prevent US from getting a majority-minority voting district? Because doing so would have diluted her 88 percent majority to 68 percent, and she wanted to make sure that she got re-elected (which, unfortunately, she was).
…To be continued, next week.