End Games

How the black pawns got pushed off the board.

Getty Images for DAGOC

The Democratic Party's primary race has reached a dangerous stage for black people. It has come to this: Both the Obama and Clinton campaigns are apparently willing to sacrifice black citizenship rights in order to win the Democratic nomination for president.

On one hand, we have Sen. Clinton's supporters being charged with intentionally trying to disenfranchise black voters in North Carolina and elsewhere through voter suppression tactics taken from Karl Rove's playbook.

But Sen. Obama is playing his own brand of risky politics. As he works to maintain white support, he is forgetting his black base. Just a week ago he urged voters to "respect" a New York judge's racist verdict allowing the police killers of Sean Bell to walk. His message was not unlike Booker T. Washington's admonishment to black Atlantans a century ago to respect the law in the face of a deadly pogrom. Black rights were sacrificed in the name of electoral expediency. And Obama is resorting to the same expediency now.

Just pay attention to the words. Here is Obama on April 25, in response to the verdict in the Bell case:

Well, look, obviously there was a tragedy in New York. I said at the time that without benefit of all the facts before me, it looked like a possible case of excessive force. Now, the judge has made his ruling. And, you know, we are a nation of laws. And so we respect the verdict that came down. I think the most important thing for people who are concerned about that shooting is to figure out how do we come together and ensure that those kinds of tragedies don't happen again? And so my understanding is that Mayor Bloomberg, community leaders, they are going to be -- the police department -- they are going to be getting together to find out what changes and procedures need to take place in preventing these kind of tragic shootings. But certainly, you know, resorting to violence to express displeasure over a verdict is something that is completely unacceptable and is counterproductive.

--Sen. Barack Obama

Here is Booker T. Washington commenting on the anti-black Atlanta Massacre of 1906, a killing spree that started as a result of false accusations against black males who were supposedly attacking white women:

I spoke plainly against the crime of assaulting women and of resorting to lynching and mob law as a remedy for any evil….I would strongly urge that the best white people and the best colored people come together in council and use their united efforts to stop the current disorder. I would especially urge the colored people of Atlanta and elsewhere to exercise self-control and not make the fatal mistake of retaliation.

--Booker T. Washington

The tactics of Senators Clinton and Obama may not seem connected. But they each signal a bankruptcy within the Democratic Party that black voters need to pay attention to.