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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Artur Davis, Hate Crimes, and the Price of Becoming Governor

Back in February, I wrote a Cliff Note about a Black South Carolina State Senator who, while considering a run for Governor, felt the need to strengthen his White support by celebrating the Confederacy. Well a few weeks ago, another post-racial Dixie Governor wannabe decided to go the same Confederate lovin’ route. Artur Davis, candidate for Alabama Governor, recently criticized an Auburn City Councilman for removing confederate flags from a local cemetery.

Now personally, I’ve grown a little tired of the confederate flag stuff. And part of me has actually come to like it when the good ole Confederate loving racists let me know who and what they are from a distance. It saves me sooo much time and energy!

But I have little patience for these next generation Negro leaders who use all kinds of ridiculous messages and gestures to let White folks know that they have nothing to fear. It’s bad enough when these gestures are simply symbolic, as with the flag issue, but it’s far more troubling when theses gestures are actually on issues that matter.

Case in point: Artur Davis’ recent vote AGAINST the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The purpose of the bill is to provide Federal assistance to States and local jurisdictions to prosecute hate crimes. Considering that Davis represents Alabama’s blackbelt, the ancestral home of hate crimes, you would think he would support such a bill. Well, actually, he did support it two years ago when he voted FOR hate crimes legislation. But I guess that was before he was trying to run for Governor and before he realized he could use some of those KKK votes.

In a recent statement released after his vote against the current bill, Davis “explains” what influenced his decision. He says:
Some of my constituents ask why our federal laws should pick out some Americans for more protections than others. Some wonder why, in a culture that rejects violence against any human being, we should say that an attack on a black, or a woman, or a gay individual should be punished more severely than an attack on someone who happens to be a senior citizen, or a soldier, or a teacher. Others ask why some motives based on certain ideas should be punished by our criminal laws more aggressively than others.

I’m not sure which is more frightening—the thought that his constituents are asking such questions or the thought that Davis is utterly unprepared, or unwilling, to answer them. But in the spirit of cooperation, I’m offering to help Artur the next time he gets such questions from his constituents. Just send them my way, and I’ll gladly provide the answers that you’re too afraid to give.

For starters, I’ll explain that the law has always taken the intent of perpetrator into account—thus, the difference between manslaughter and murder, or negligence and fraud. There is nothing inconsistent about saying that some motives need to be dealt with more aggressively than others. And when those motives are driven by intentional and vile feelings of hatred, towards not just one person but an entire group, then we need make no apologies for treating those crimes more harshly than an individual and random act of violence.

Of course, this is not the first time that Davis has voted against the Democratic House leadership. In fact, during Davis’ first four years in Congress, prior to the Democratic takeover in 2006, he would routinely vote with the Republicans, going against the interests of his constituents in the process. Perhaps the most notable example of this was his 2004 vote for the infamous bankruptcy bill that made it harder for folks to get debts wiped away. The Republican sponsored bill was seen as a huge victory for credit card and finance companies.

Again, considering that Davis represents one of the poorest districts in the country—a district plagued by pay day loans and predatory lending—you would think he would have fought against such a bill. But when your convictions change according to the political winds, and your ambitions have you looking beyond your current constituents, “the least of these” usually suffer.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if this type of representation is the price we have to pay for getting Blacks elected to statewide and national office, we might as well stick with the White folks.

On that “note”, I’m outta here!


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