As the calendar turned to 2011, Danny Davis turned the calendar back to 1983. When he dropped out of the race for mayor, preferring a candidate to unify black voters, he said: "I want to make sure at least one of us has what is needed," Davis said after withdrawing from the race on December 31st. Davis then called Braun "the best candidate."
If Braun was the best candidate, what has Danny Davis been doing for the last two months?
Davis decided to get out of the race after several meetings among Chicago's African-American leaders attempting to find a unity candidate that could improve the odds of electing an African American mayor in Chicago.
Now that there is one major black candidate left (Patricia Val Pelt Watkins and William "Dock" Walls are on the ballot), are black Chicagoans supposed to blindly vote for Carol Moseley Braun? Is that what black leadership is telling us?
Behind Moseley Braun and Danny Davis were the same leaders that have been "leading" the Chicago black community since Harold Washington was mayor- prominent among them was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who wanted one candidate the black community could unify behind. Jackson mediated the discussions between the Davis and Moseley Braun campaigns to decide on who would emerge the black community's unity candidate.
Maybe its being from a different generation, but being in Grant Park on November 4, 2008, changed racial politics for me. When I voted for Barack Obama, I voted for him because he was the best candidate, not because he was black. That is why he overwhelmingly won the election- because he was the best candidate. That historic night in Grant Park changed things. That night the spirit of Obama's candidacy rang out in the park and across the nation and world- the best person will win an election regardless of race. Danny Davis's withdrawal from the race and the reasons therefor defeats that spirit.
Our "black leaders" want to turn back the clock to 1983. They want us to vote for someone solely based upon color of skin, rather than whether that candidate is the best person for the job.
As I turn the calendar to 2011, such a rationale for my vote is simply offensive. After researching the candidates, I'll go the ballot box and vote for the best candidate, rather than the black candidate. The black community would be incensed if Rahm Emanuel said "vote for me, I'm white!" Effectively, that's the message our black leaders gave us Friday night. "The realities are that when our community comes together, as the song says, ain't no stopping us now," Danny Davis proclaimed after dropping out of the race.
Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle, both Latino, have not pitted themselves as the "Latino" candidate, but rather as the best candidate for the job. After Danny Davis dropped from the race, Gery Chico portrayed both Emanuel and Braun as Washington D.C. politicians, while noting that he himself has only worked in Chicago politics as the former Chicago Board of Education president and Mayor Daley's former chief of staff: "I succeeded in every public service position I held because I built coalitions across ethnic and racial lines."
Emanuel gave a similar tone in his statement after Davis dropped out of the race: "With all of the challenges we face, we must come together to work on behalf of all Chicagoans and address the needs of every neighborhood."
After Barack Obama won the presidential election, I am left to disagree with the aged group of black political leaders, like Danny Davis, Carol Moseley Braun and Jesse Jackson. I disagree with their assessment that voters are more focused on race than qualifications.
Later this month, we will celebrate Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and influence on our nation. Over forty years ago, while upon the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he shared his dream of what our great nation would become:
"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Dr. King's dream is becoming a reality. Our "black leaders", ironically, many of whom were with King when he made his speech, are keeping us back from realizing the dream. It may be nice to have a black mayor, but I'd rather have the best person do the job, black, white or Latino. That should be the basis for our vote- not because Jesse Jackson, Danny Davis and James Meeks tell us that Carol Moseley Braun is the best black candidate for mayor. If you believe she is the best candidate, by all means, vote for Moseley Braun. But a vote for her because she is black, gets us farther away from Dr. King's dream.