Congressional Black Caucus Has Its Own Race Issues
The Congressional Black Caucus undoubtably played an important role advancing the public image of African-Americans in statewide office in its first two decades, and perhaps deserves even more credit than it publicly gets to this day for holding the then Democrat-controlled Congress’s feet to the fire in getting tough on the the apartheid regime of South Africa. However, the CBC has had its own problematic, nearly August National Golf Club-esque moments when it has delved into issues of blackness and who can join the Congressional Black Caucus.
Currently the first-ever Dominican Congressman Adriano Espaillat is seeking to join the Congressional Black Caucus but is being hampered with questions of his blackness despite the fact that Representative Espaillat has been proud to describe himself as a Latino of African descent during his time in Albany and now in Washington D.C. Current members bristle at his unsuccessful attempts in 2012 and 2014 to primary Representative Charles Rangel, despite the fact that Congressman Rangel had been censured for failing to disclose rental income from property he owned in the Dominican Republic. Personally, I always loved the proud populist patriotism of Rep. Rangel, consistently calling for the return of the draft out of fairness and civic duty. As he himself would often put it, only when the progeny of the powerful are at risk of harm will chickenhawk politicians and their rich backers fully consider the human costs of military adventurism. Yet his father was from Puerto Rico originally, and as a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus I do not recall his ethnicity ever being a public issue.
Which brings us to former President Obama and his very Caucasian-American momma and Kenyan father. The Congressional Black Caucus welcomed him in with open arms, although he was guilty of the same sin as Espaillat of pushing aside older black politicians in Illinois early in his career. While he undoubtably demonstrated fantastic oratory and campaigning abilities as a United States Senator, I do not ever remember him explicitly discussing during the campaign or in office the irony of being the first African-American president without any genealogical links to slavery, Reconstruction, or Jim Crow beyond the mistreatment of Native Hawaiians on their home islands during his youth. I do remember it being hysterical that he and former Vice President Cheney were shown to be cousins.