By Kevin Slayton
There is this long standing double standard when it comes to political ethics and morality in terms of its racial lens. I would argue that since the colonizers shared the biblical teachings of their own interpretations with the slaves, such a fundamental hypocrisy has been in existence. There is this notion that truth and fairness are essential to righteousness. Yet, it has always been in direct conflict of the dominant cultures actions towards virtually everything and everyone else.
The notion that humans should be treated with decency was not the reality for those who stood on the deck of slave ships basking in the view, while just beneath their feet lay entire families comprised of fathers, mothers, grandparents and children. All clinging to sanity, while lying in their own excrement. The unfathomable idea and sheer audacity that slave owners and traders could so brazening call the field Negro “lazy.” Somehow they never gave consideration that the Negro was doing ALL of the work, while they sat and reaped all the benefits.
Still, the White oppressor was to be seen as ethical and good for allowing the oppressed people on their plantations to participate in practices of family and faith. The illusion that they were somehow connected to the moral thought that flowed from religious and spiritual connection was critical to sustaining an image. But it was certainly hypocritical. The biblical interpretation for the Negro who sinned was deadly, while the oppressor was always afforded the forgiveness offered by God.
These thoughts have had a great impact on my political thoughts over the past several weeks. Particularly, as it relates to the upcoming Mayoral election. The hard truth is that this race exposes a divide in the Black community, while also demonstrating the historical political strategy of White power brokers in this city. I don’t sense any divide among White voters in the city.
For the past 12 months candidates have been on the political stump expressing their desire to serve the city. Many are simple novice, no disrespect intended, but it takes money to win the top seat in local government. Many of those early announcers are known throughout the community as persons concerned for the city’s marginalized communities. They’ve served in communities where poverty is a way of life. They’ve given themselves to people who had very little, anything that they could give back in return. Unfortunately, only a few were in a position to tackle the systemic and institutional racism that lies just beneath the surface of every relationship and transaction in this city.
The message is clear, “Black Baltimore you cannot afford to be divided.” If our votes are spread out thinly then we lose. While I do not know the White candidates personally, I do know that I’ve never once heard them speak publicly against the failing educational opportunities for poor children in this city. I’ve never heard them voice an opinion on the disproportionate incarceration of poor Black and brown people in this City. I’ve never seen them tackle the plaguing issues of housing, worker’s rights or bail reform. I’ve never witnessed them testifying before the General Assembly or the City Council in the interest of the majority minority population in this city. And regrettably, I’ve never heard them speak to the violence and trauma that has devastated the Black community for decades.
In the next few weeks Baltimore will cast votes for a mayor and it can’t be one based on emotion. Neither can it fall victim to the double standard applied unevenly in one direction. For too long Blacks have been asked to uphold a moral and ethical political view not expected or cast upon White voters. When White candidates are found in violation of ethical norms an olive branch of sort is always extended. One needs to look no further than the White House and it is clear that the understanding of forgiveness is expansive, yet when applied to Black candidates we are asked to limit our embrace of such a theology. In fact, Black voters are asked to completely distance ourselves from our own interest. As a Christian minister, I believe in the concept of redemption and forgiveness. But as an African American I also recognize the double standard as it is being applied in this mayoral race, so I would encourage us to embrace a similar theology of forgiveness and vote with the power of one voice.
Rev. Kevin Slayton is senior pastor of Lanham UMC.
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