Black ministers circle the wagons for Senator Burris



Nearly every day over the past week or so, groups of African-American ministers, community leaders, lawyers or politicians have held news conferences and rallies in Chicago to pronounce their support for Burris and to ask that calls for his resignation stop.

And the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus is even stronger in its defense of Burris. “We want to say collectively together, we want this cutting and bleeding to stop,” says Alderman Carrie Austin, who chairs the Black Caucus. “To just muck up somebody’s 30-plus-years record, loyalty to the Democratic Party, and now for all of them to turn on him — we say it’s time for this to stop, and if it does not, we shall remember this at the next election.”

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who had called for Burris to resign but who may want to run for a full term as governor next year, appears to have received the message.

Quinn denies that his own future political fortunes were a factor in his decision to back off of Burris. But Chicago Tribune political columnist Clarence Page says racial interests appear to be outweighing ethical concerns.

Clarence Page — who is black — sees this as many whites do: that there would and should be calls for Burris to resign whether or not he was black. Most blacks however are only too aware that Burriss is the only black in the US Senate and yet blacks are more than 10 percent of the US population. For those who have been on the receiving end of racism it is not difficult see Senator Burris’ treatment as one more instance of racism.

On February 19th the White House suggested Senator Burris take the weekend to think about his future — the clear suggestion being he should resign over the latest revelations. But Senator Burris appears to held on for now, and his fellow Democrats in Illinois have gotten the message to back off or risk reelection.

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John B. Chilton
John B. Chilton

Attorney General Holder recently said we are a nation of cowards when it comes to race, and we need to have a conversation about race.

Bill Moyers interviewed the linguist John McWhorter and asked about Holder had said. McWhorter answered: When, for example, Attorney General Eric Holder says that we need to have a conversation about race, he means well. But he's not saying what those words strictly mean. The dictionary will not help there. Over about the past 20 years, saying that we need to have a conversation about race is coded. What the meaning actually is, is that, yes, there was a civil rights revolution. Yes, the signs are off the water fountain. Yes, overt expressions of bigotry are now socially proscribed. But still racism remains a very serious problem, perhaps a defining experience in a black American person's life and that we need to have a conversation about that, that obviously it's not something that nobody could miss such as the signs on the water fountains. But may I, as a black person, have a conversation with you white person about why I still feel beleaguered by racism? The idea is that it would take a conversation. And so having the conversation about race, what is generally meant by most people who are saying that, means that black people have something to teach white people if white people would just sit and listen. And it is not a conversation in the strict sense. It's not just an exchange. But in an exchange there would also be room for white people to say, "Here's why we think you need to get over racism. Here's why we're not as racist as you might think. Here's why we're offended by this or we're weary of this." And what most people mean by the conversation would have much, much less room for that than for the teaching that black people are supposed to do.

Read it all of that interview here,

The point I'm coming around to is that there is that the Burriss situation is an illustration of what McWhorter is describing. While whites have called for his resignation over ethics questions, when blacks respond that this is about race whites shut down. And they do so because it is considered bad form to respond. There is no conversation about race that results.

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