Is a Black Political Party Obsolete?

Reacting to Andrew Cuomo's all-white political ticket in New York, a Brooklyn councilman has called for a black-led organization. That's so 1960s.

Posted:
 
snyderfreeparty
Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Charles Daughtry and Charles Barron (Getty Images)

Trying to be a better son, I'm attempting to call my mother more regularly. And I couldn't believe the doozy she laid on me during a recent conversation: Her Brooklyn church hosted the launch of a new political party. The New York Freedom Democratic Party. An all-black political party? Excuse me? Did I fall asleep and wake up in 1960? Who knew we'd mark the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future by going back to the past?

Not to fear. Charles Barron, the Freedom Party nominee for governor, says the party's portrayal is a bit off. ''Somebody said to me is this party only for black people? No,'' Barron told the crowd at the church, according to Our Time Press. ''It's going to be black-led, but anybody can join us. We welcome anybody, but we are leading this. We said, 'You don't want us; fine.' Let's do our own party. This is shaking them up.''

I don't know how ''our own party'' is the ticket for anything ... except ridicule and derision. It's certainly not the remedy for New York's all-white top of the Democratic ticket--Andrew Cuomo for governor, Bob Duffy for lieutenant governor, Thomas DiNapoli for comptroller and The Five Heartbeats competing for attorney general. No wonder Cuomo has courted black support for months, and placed a call to Rev. Al Sharpton to discuss diversity in Cuomo's would-be administration.

Look, just because America has an all-white party (read: the GOP), that doesn't mean black folks should replicate such foolishness. Besides, the math is such that we'll never win anything without a coalition that includes white, brown and yellow supporters.

But, bless their hearts, there they were, more than 250 folks marching to the historic Siloam Presbyterian Church, where anthems such as ''Say it loud! I'm Black and I'm Proud!'' were played in a large meeting room over the sanctuary on June 27. They gathered to launch their movement and listen to Barron, a current city councilman and former Black Panther. Barron had announced his intentions two weeks earlier, saying that his party would be a place for minority voters who were disenchanted with the Democratic Party.

''The Democratic Party has taken our vote for granted for many, many years,'' Barron told the New York Times, adding that Duffy's selection was ''the latest slap in the face. This political blackout by Andrew Cuomo is outrageous, that he would be comfortable going with an all-white state slate,'' Barron said.

It's true that black voters are in a dubious position, caught between a party that's presumptuous about black support and a party that's not even pretending it cares. But trying to form a separate political party makes as much sense as armed revolt. No matter how much pride we took in groups such as the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam, we'd all be dead or still under Jim Crow if we followed their lead.

Minorities account for 40 percent of New York's population, so it'd be smart politics to include a black or Hispanic on the ticket. And I'm certain there are qualified, non-white candidates who could do an admirable job. But it's counter-productive to suggest you'll support a Democratic ticket ONLY if a minority is included. You wouldn't support the Republican ticket under the same conditions.

The name of the game today should be inclusion, a nod to the nation's rapidly browning demographics. Cuomo didn't follow the script in selecting a running mate, but that's not the only method of diversity. It's not even the most important. I'd much rather see administration officials (at all levels) who reflect the population, and minority contractors get their fair share of government projects. If Cuomo had chosen a black running mate and left it at that, big deal.

As for Barron, he refuses to call himself a spoiler. ''Spoil what?'' he told the Times. ''They already spoiled us by excluding us and having a statewide slate that looks like Mississippi in the 1950s. What am I spoiling? I'm going to be an empowerer. A vote for Cuomo is a wasted vote because he's already got it.''

The Root 100 People's Choice Awards  
Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM