The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Rangel Needs a Wakeup Call

Charles Rangel compares President Bush to an anti-civil rights police commissioner from Alabama saying "George Bush is our Bull Connor"
From the New York Sun:

"Mr. Rangel's metaphoric linkage of Mr. Bush to the late Theophilus "Bull"
Connor--who in 1963 turned fire hoses and attack dogs on blacks, including
Martin Luther King Jr., demonstrating in favor of equal rights--met with wild
applause and cheering at a Congressional Black Caucus town hall meeting, part of
the organization's 35th Annual Legislative
Conference. . . .
Mr. Rangel, a Democrat who has represented Harlem for almost 35 years, spent his portion of yesterday's forum reminiscing about the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, and calling on his audience to undertake similar action today, inciting them to "revolution" after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and particularly its impact on indigent blacks in the Gulf Coast region.
The storm, he said, showed that "if you're black in this country, and you're poor in this country, it's not an inconvenience--it's a death sentence." Denouncing Mr. Bush for waging "a war that we cannot win under any stretch of our imagination" instead of providing for those devastated by the hurricane, Mr. Rangel left his audience with a parting thought.
"If there's one thing that George Bush has done that we should never forget, it's that for us and for our children, he has shattered the myth of white supremacy once and for all," the congressman said."
On the one hand this is simply rediculous. It is true that Federal response to Katrina was far too slow. But this is proving to be true because of institutional and structural failures with in the federal system (Bush's reorganization of Federal emergency management resources under the dubious DHS was not well thought out and was poorly implemented) and, even more telling, because the Governor of LA failed to act quickly and was found second-guessing herself at every turn - clear signs of poor crisis leadership. If this disaster had happened any where else, save perhaps NY and DC, I predict that similar results would have ensued. To claim that racism is at the heart of our failure to respond to Katrina is specious and irresponsible.

But Rangel's comments bother me for another reason. They demonstrate just how out of touch he is, and indeed many of his fellow leaders are, with the political realities of today. Inciting his audience to a "revolution," and claiming that being black and poor in this country is a death sentence, is not the way to gain popular support for the African American community. It does not in any way appeal to the majority - it only wrongly condemns them as racist and cold.

As the Wall Street Journal mentions
"The civil rights movement succeeded--with great difficulty at
that--because it appealed to the consciences of white Americans. This was a
matter of practical necessity: In a democracy, you cannot bring about change
without appealing to the majority. But it was also a matter of the uncomplicated
rightness of the desegregationist cause. Winning equal rights for black
Americans required overcoming a lot of history, prejudice and fear, but it
didn't require overcoming any compelling arguments on the other side, for there
were none. By contrast, issues of race and poverty in America today are far more complicated, involving questions of personal responsibility, governmental ineffectiveness and corruption, and the racial attitudes of blacks as well as those of whites. "

Support for Rangel's argument is not widespread among the majority of this country. It is true that Blacks were hit disproportionately hard by the effects of Hurricane Katrina. It is something that must be addressed. But rather than sitting down and discussing why this is the case, and how we can better prepare communities in urban areas for disasters in the future, Rangel chooses the path of hate mongering and unsubstantiated vitriol. He is not doing the African American community a favor.

"If after 40 years blacks remain disproportionately poor and alienated from American society, surely it is time to ask if this approach has been a failure. "


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