Bankole: Blacks should stop apologizing for Dems

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses residents of Benton Harbor at a special community meeting on June 5  to discuss the state's proposal to close the high school.

One of the disappointing reasons why black communities like Detroit, Flint, Benton Harbor and other places often register significantly less gains under Democratic administrations in Michigan is that blacks don’t demand as much from liberals as from Republicans. 

When Democrats are in power, some black political leaders tend to apologize for the inaction of their party on a number of issues. They moonwalk, straddle the fence and make all kinds of excuses as to why black municipalities are not getting the needed help. Sometimes they will even blame previous administrations of the opposite party for their current problems.

Every administration inevitably inherits issues. But once you are in charge, you can no longer make excuses for the past. It’s time to begin to deliver results and not keep pointing to what happened before you took over.

This hypocrisy is playing out in Benton Harbor right now, where some surrogates of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are on a subtle campaign to blame former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for what happened in that city. Yet Snyder did not threaten to close the only high school there, but rather entered into an agreement with the school district that kept the school open.

But because some black envoys of the Democratic administration in Lansing don’t seem to want to ask some tough questions of their white liberal bosses regarding how black cities will fare under Whitmer, they blame Snyder and the Republican Legislature. This kind of behavior betrays the spirit of democracy, because we are supposed to hold every governor or mayor accountable regardless of party.

We cannot have one set of standards for Democrats and another set for Republicans on issues of accountability. Both parties are driven largely by interest groups and powerful campaign donors who know how to make Lansing acquiesce to their demands.

Our failure to exhaust all options when Democrats are in power to deal with the crisis facing urban cities is one of the principal reasons why it is sometimes hard to point to quantifiable achievements registered for our socioeconomic advancement.

A top Whitmer surrogate attempted to school me on black personal responsibility regarding the Benton Harbor fiasco, after I talked about the crisis as an example of a racial double standard on a recent panel I was on with author Michael Eric Dyson and CNN host Van Jones. I almost chuckled listening to the purported lesson and the string of apologetic explanations that this individual was trying to roll out to help me see the “bigger picture.”

I had no issue listening to other perspectives. My issue is that it is disingenuous for Democrats to place a set of stringent and questionable demands on a city like Benton Harbor, that is almost at a breaking point, under the guise of "personal responsibility."  

If a Republican administration were offering the kind of bitter pill that the Whitmer administration is now trying to shove down the throat of Benton Harbor, my cellphone would be filled with messages alleging all kinds of racist treatment in this poor black city. There would be no talk about personal responsibility, and all the mainstream black civil rights groups would be preparing for statewide press conferences to make the case that it is a pattern of historic disinvestment in black cities. They would cast the fight as an Armageddon battle.

For all of the shortcomings of his administration, including the Flint water crisis, Snyder signed a $617 million bailout and restructuring plan for the Detroit public schools. Now, Whitmer is frowning upon forgiving the Benton Harbor school district's $18 million debt and pointing to the Legislature instead.

I guess blacks have to go on bended knees to beg Whitmer, a Democrat, to forgive Benton Harbor’s debt.