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Bankole: Keep the Tlaib-Jones congressional contest about issues, not race

Bankole Thompson

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib should answer questions about her effectiveness in Congress. She should face voters regarding what she’s done for the 13th congressional district since her election. She should lay out in clear terms how her district members have been served well since she was elected to occupy the seat of the late civil rights icon and Congressman John Conyers Jr.

But the race to unseat Tlaib and replace her with Brenda Jones, president of the Detroit City Council, doesn’t seem to be driven by substantive policy questions about the well-being of an underserved district based largely in Detroit. Instead, the race is being driven in part by xenophobic tendencies.  

There are some in the Black civic establishment who think the seat vacated by Conyers should be held by a Black person. In fact, some have sought to brand Tlaib as an outsider who has seized one of the biggest political prizes in Black Detroit politics without really earning it.

Some have sought to brand Rep. Rashida Tlaib as an outsider, Bankole writes.

I’ve read some comments on social media about Tlaib, an Arab American, from some of her Black critics that are plainly xenophobic.  

For example, suggesting a media conspiracy against Jones because she is Black, Keith Williams, the chairman of the do-nothing Michigan Democratic Black Caucus, whose daytime job is director of recruitment for Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, offered this July 25 screed on Facebook about Tlaib:

“See, the stage was set for other interlopers like Rashida Tlaib and Shri Thanedar to take some more power at the expense of competent candidates, Black candidates who are seeking office. Using other people to attack Brenda Jones' record, who has been a responsible leader, who has been great for Detroiters,” said Williams, who cited what he deemed to be Jones’ accomplishments.

He added, “But what saddens me about Black people, the outside interlopers who don't look like us can persuade Black folks to follow them, especially Black women, but Black folks can't get Black folks to support them, meaning we will turn on each other in a heartbeat.”

Days earlier, Williams, offered this crude post about Tlaib: “Everybody knows Rashida Tlaib is a fraud... What has she done for Black folks and Black Lives Matter, but give lip service.”

His posts reveal an obsession with the congresswoman. One has to wonder how much work Williams is really putting in for the Wayne County Sheriff’s office versus the prejudice he expresses on social media about a sitting member of Congress. His boss Napoleon enjoys support in the Arab American community: I emceed the Arab American Civil Rights League’s annual dinner several years ago, where Napoleon was honored for being an ally of that community.  

The irony of the anti-Black campaign against Tlaib, is that it is being waged by some of the very same people who fully support Mayor Mike Duggan. They have no problem working obediently to get a white moderate like Duggan reelected as leader of the largest Black city in the nation, but they have an issue with a woman of color representing a majority Black district.  

Their shameful hypocrisy and double standard ought to be exposed.

Williams and others who think ignorantly and dangerously will not take on Duggan, who is presiding over a recovery that has failed many Black Detroiters, because the mayor knows how to put some of these Black civic officials in check. For example, the Michigan Democratic Black Caucus that Williams leads owes its survival to the Michigan Democratic Party as a lapdog for white liberal politics, where Duggan is a very significant player.

Plantation politics dictate that it is off-limits to publicly criticize Duggan for any of his failings, including the $600 million over-taxation of Detroit homeowners and other missteps of the administration, such as the reported racial turmoil at the Detroit Police Department. Yet some of these so-called Black gatekeepers argue that a U.S. House of Representative seat should be held by a Black person.  

Tlaib has questions to answer like any other politician. So does Jones, who hasn’t fully utilized her power as leader of the City Council to forcefully challenge Duggan on the city’s recovery. 

bankole@bankolethompson.com

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which broadcasts at 11 a.m. weekdays on 910AM.