I got an email from an editor at a major black-oriented website last week, asking me if I would write a rush article on Charles Rangel the same Thursday afternoon formal ethics charges were announced against him. I’d done quick turnaround work for this editor before, but there wasn’t anything compelling enough about the angle they wanted to play up on this story—what kind of relationship black politicians have with their constituents—that I was willing to stay up until three or four in the morning to explore. Now that Maxine Waters has joined the club, I’m sure the age-old question of whether or not black politicians are being targeted will arise like clockwork the rest of this week, with sage black professorial types ticking off the list of minutia that constitutes racial bias in their minds on the cable news shows.
I hope the clock stops this time.
I hope the racial equality referees who come out of the woodwork when black politicians get caught with their hands in the cookie jar are still on summer vacation.
An ethics report released Monday found that Rep. Maxine Waters probably broke conflict-of-interest rules in urging federal aid for a bank where her husband had served on the board and owned hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock. The California Democrat, a member of the Financial Services Committee, denied any wrongdoing and said she will not settle with the House ethics committee, most likely meaning a second public trial of a leading Democrat this fall. Rep. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.) is set to stand trial on allegations that he broke congressional rules with his personal finances and with his fundraising efforts for a New York college.
After the entire country endured the last two weeks of dealing with outright racial discrimination against Shirley Sherrod by Andrew Brietbart, it is to their credit, at least so far, that neither Rangel nor Waters resorted to using their race as a shield to hide behind when their missteps came to light. By no means should these champions of the downtrodden shy away from defending themselves if they suddenly become aware of a systemic plot to eradicate black lawmakers from the Congressional rolls. But from what we in the general public can see, that is unlikely to be the case in these two instances.
I’d like to say I can’t blame Rangel and Waters for looking out for themselves, especially when they have worked amongst colleagues during their decades in office whose haul of ill gotten gains makes their transgressions look like pocket change. I’d like to say that in a world where power and access and special favors are traded for personal gain all the time, the only real crime these two might be found guilty of is getting caught.
And some ways, it is probably more than a little unfair that Waters misstep is being tied to the more damning laundry list of offenses Rangel is being accused of committing.
But there is still something to be said for being able to stand on the moral high ground.
Still something to be said for believing that right is right, and wrong is wrong.
In a political climate where our political representatives have all but completely accepted the mantra "do as I say, not as I do" as the gospel of the new millennium, "right is right, and wrong is wrong" may seem to be an overly simplistic way of looking at these kinds of situations.
I'm willing to stick with it, though, even though it might be an outdated concept.