'Negroes who gain high office must walk like angels'

Elinor Tatum | 4/12/2011, 5:30 p.m.

We are still in the fight for our lives. The Black community is under attack from all sides. It doesn't matter if it is the streets of New York, the streets of Albany or the hallways of the capitol, we are under attack. Under attack from the left, the right and the center. Under attack from those who have called us friend. Under attack from those who want to see our race back in the fields and not in the mansions of government.

This week alone has proved trying for our elected officials. From the White House down to our congressman to our governor. Each with their own troubles and each with a cross to bear, mostly of others' wrongdoing.

The media has gone full throttle to give half-truths and distort information. Leaks from inside government offices and hearsay have made headlines. Facts be dammed, an inkling of scandal a story does bear.

On Wednesday, March 3, Congressman Charles B. Rangel told the masses that he was taking a leave from his powerful position of chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He said he was doing it to protect those freshmen Congressmen who would have to defend him as part of their local campaigns. He did it for the party. But why did he have to? The fact of the matter is that these allegations stemmed from the right-wing think tanks that have done opposition research, looking for any possible line of attacks against the congressman and all too often, the white media has been ready to take these messages and give the worst perspective of Black politicos.

Rangel has stolen nothing; he was not accused of any indictable offense. In the worst case, he may be guilty of some bad judgment. But having bad judgment in itself has never been a cause to take down a politician. George Bush and his gang were able to stay in power for two full terms with poor judgment.

So go after why Rangel? Why is it that every time a Black man in America attains high office, they are assaulted on every level? There is no sleep, there is no hope, there is just time wasted on having to defend oneself from accusations that many times are unfounded rather than taking on the issues of the day such as jobs, health care and education.

The tactics that are used are there to stop progress. To keep our eyes off the prize of making this country a better place for all of us. These distractions are tools used by the right and, all too often, even some of our so-called liberal friends, that ensure that our people do not have a future because they hogtie us in the gutter rather than play against us on the field where we honestly can win and make change that will benefit us all. We, as African-Americans, know the importance of having a Charlie Rangel bringing his voice and experience to the table and the halls of power. We waited more than a generation for the congressman to rise to the position where he could really affect change, and as soon as he attained real power, there were those who began to plot his demise.