Wednesday, January 24, 2007

How is this different than Jim Crow?

The Politico has an article titled "Black Caucus: Whites Not Allowed". An excerpt:
As a white liberal running in a majority African American district, Tennessee Democrat Stephen I. Cohen made a novel pledge on the campaign trail last year: If elected, he would seek to become the first white member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Now that he's a freshman in Congress, Cohen has changed his plans. He said he has dropped his bid after several current and former caucus members made it clear to him that whites need not apply.


Cohen said he became convinced that joining the caucus would be "a social faux pas" after seeing news reports that former Rep. William Lacy Clay Sr., D-Mo., a co-founder of the caucus, had circulated a memo telling members it was "critical" that the group remain "exclusively African-American."

Other members, including the new chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., and Clay's son, Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., agreed.

"Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. ... It's time to move on," the younger Clay said. "It's an unwritten rule. It's understood. It's clear."

The bylaws of the caucus do not make race a prerequisite for membership...

It's not clear to me how this is different than a "Whites Only" drinking fountain. Rep. Cohen is barred from joining this group solely on the basis of his skin color.

What is the point of the Congressional Black Caucus? To advance the causes of black people. Do you have to be black to be interested in this goal?



Anonymous said...

The difference is between majority and minority realities. Forcing the minority group (as determined numerically, not ethnically) to allow those of the majority to join defeats the purpose when the majority outnumbers the minority sub group in its own group.

For the majority to allow - by force or by choice - members from the minority would never upset the numerical reality that the minority will always remain a minority numerically, and the majority will always remain the majority.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Shelby Steele commented on this a little over three years ago in this WSJ op-ed piece. Steel comments on identity politics and the role of atavistic elements in our social mores. Steel's take on the matter is quite provocative and will certainly raise some hackles. But it does explain why Cohen transgressed a social taboo and why today's society looks askance at the BCC's atavistic exclusivity.

Bradley Ross said...

Anonymous, that is a great observation. I don't accept it, but I can understand it.

Reach, I really found that to be an interesting article you linked. I found this quote to be particularly incisive.

"Racial identity is simply forbidden to whites in America and across the entire Western world. Black children today are hammered with the idea of racial identity and pride, yet racial pride in whites constitutes a grave evil. Say "I'm white and I'm proud" and you are a Nazi."

Keryn said...

I have to close the comments on this post because of comment spam. If you have something you'd like to add (at this late date), feel free to email me, I'll add it.