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.
Unfortunately, The New York Times, a paper supposedly known as a bastion of liberalism, has taken the lead on this story and has often taken a far more aggressive reportorial stand than we can remember with any white politician with similar minor misdeeds. And with the New York Times taking an aggressive stand, the lesser dailies–The Daily News and The New York Post–feel that it is open season on a leader they have never respected and have always felt it was their duty to attack. But while the House Ethics Committee continues to investigate, Congressman Rangel will continue to serve and be active on his committee. However, his voice will be missed as chair as we await his return to the helm of Ways and Means.
Meanwhile, in Albany, the saga of the governor continues. The governor, who has been embattled since he came to power less than two years ago, has had to stand firm in his fight against those who seem to want to take him down at any cost.
Unfortunately, at the center of this story are our friends at the New York Times as well. They have taken a story about an aide and created a governmental crisis. The style and the approach taken by the reporters seems more in the style of the Daily News or the Post rather than the higher quality we have grown to expect from the New York Times. It appears that the Times reporters have decided to put the governor on trial on the news pages, and the editorial page has decided to act as the jury in the case. Would the reporters have taken the same aggressive stand if they were talking about a white politician?
All too often, the Times and the lesser papers, which have grasped at straws, citing chapter and verse from anonymous sources and swear up and down that the governor is resigning every other day, need to check their facts. Yes, an incident occurred between a senior advisor and a woman with whom he had a relationship. Yes, there were conversations between staff and this woman.
But what of it? Were the reporters on the phone to hear what was said? Do they know that there was any wrongdoing on the part of anyone during those conversations? Is there proof that the woman stayed away from the hearing because of some type of coercion? Or did she, like thousands of women, change her mind about going forward?
These are facts that we cannot know at this point in time. We also cannot know what the truth is that is coming out for the attorney general’s office. At this point, there should be nothing coming out of that office until the investigation is complete. The leaks that have sprung have been from several places, including the NYPD. The immaturity and the political swords that are being thrown are not adding to the conversation. They just continue to keep us away from the issues that really matter, like the budget.
Governor Paterson has said he will not seek a full term. He has said that he will serve out his term and focus on the work that needs to be done. Let him.
Let him continue to fix what is wrong in Albany. Let him help to get a budget on track and let him continue to fight for all New Yorkers as he has done for decades.
The headline of this editorial is taken directly for a January 14, 1967, Amsterdam News editorial about Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. entitled “Powell and Congress.”