Socially Speaking's Blog
The Other Side of the Tracks blog by Word Press

Shadows On One Side of the Tree

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

September 7, 2010

By Perry Redd

I truly believe that lawmakers and law enforcers should be held to the highest degree of scrutiny and accountability.  Ethics panels and oversight investigations are fully necessary to ensure that our interests, as taxpayers and citizens, are protected and that those we select and elect aren’t abusing the power we hand to them.  The current investigations into wrongdoing and allegations are commendable, on it’s face.  But what I’ve noticed is that white people do now wrong.  Is that right?  White people “do no wrong?”  From the apparent congressional ethics investigations happening right now, I’m right.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the Texas Democrat is accused of breaking scholarship eligibility rules set by a black lawmakers group by awarding about $31,000 to her relatives and an aide’s children, said Wednesday she didn’t shortchange others to benefit her own family.  I don’t like the sound of it, but after studying the allegations, I’m learning that all of children of congressmen and women get superior educational opportunities.  This appears to be another one.

Since 2005, Johnson, who represents a Dallas-area district, awarded about a third of scholarships she had available through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to two grandsons and two great-nephews and to the son and daughter of her top aide in Dallas. After the Dallas Morning News reported the awards on Sunday, Johnson quickly repaid the foundation.  I don’t like the idea of doing something wrong, and then correcting it and there is no punishment.  In theory, that is the right way to go about the remedial process, but in matters of criminal justice, that doesn’t go for the average American.  Wonder why?

This is just the latest in bad news for black members of Congress. Several CBC members have been under investigation in the past year — most notable, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York and Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who are both in the middle of very publicized ethics committee trials.

I haven’t seen a white member under investigation in a long time.  Is it because white members do no wrong?  They know what scandal looks like and want none of that?  I think race has something to do with this.  Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), a former member of the House ethics committee, said the charges were brought forth because of pressure on the panel to finish their work before the end of the current Congress, not because of racial bias.

In the case of Johnson, foundation rules for its scholarships prohibit nepotism and providing awards to students living or attending schools outside a lawmaker’s district. None of the six related to Johnson or her aide lived in her district, the Morning News reported.  After the scholarships from Johnson came to light, the chairman of the foundation, Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), said, “There will be no self-dealing or nepotism in the awarding of college scholarships” and ordered an immediate audit of the program.  Good for him.  Johnson said she broke the rules “unknowingly.”  How can that happen?  Who’s overseeing the program? 

Why aren’t other members of Congress under these high-profile investigations? There’s a “dual standard, one for most members and one for African-Americans,” said one member of the Congressional Black Caucus, speaking on the condition of anonymity.  The member said it’s too easy for an outside group to damage someone’s reputation by filing a claim with OCE.

                I could be blind or chalk it up to coincidence that only black members are falling to the guillotine.  I doubt either scenario…injustice continues to reign.  Conservatives know that power can be regained by destroying obstacles in their way.  Who stands for a more level playing field than those affected by an uneven one?  Black members of Congress.  They’re low-hanging fruit—strange fruit.  What I see is that shadows fall on only one side of the tree.


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