I don’t know Allen West….never met him. But from what I’ve read, he seems like an all-American guy. So why would some of his peers think he should not join — or would not be accepted — as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)?
The CBC was formed in 1971 to challenge then-President Richard Nixon’s conservative civil rights and social welfare policies. Nixon was accused of not advancing concerns of strategic importance to black Americans. Today there are 43 members including two non-voting members from the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Then and now, the election of blacks to Congress has almost exclusively been liberal Democrats with urban constituencies. Over the years, the CBC has unapologetically lobbied for preferential treatment and a race-specific agenda in the face of both criticism and social change. The group, say its critics, seem too willing to exploit black suffering to justify its existence.
Allen West fits the profile of his CBC colleagues in that he too is black. But that may be where the similarities end.
The Lt. Colonel was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2004 with more than 20 years of service. He moved his family to Broward County, FL where he briefly taught high school before returning to Afghanistan as an advisor to the Afghan army. He completed that assignment in November 2007.
This patriot has impressive education credentials, including a Master of Military Arts and Sciences from the US Army Command and General Staff Officer College in political theory and military operations. West is about as American as you can get.
Until last year, only four black Republicans had been elected to Congress since the Caucus was founded: Senator Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts, Representative Gary Franks of Connecticut, Delegate Melvin H. Evans of the Virgin Islands and Representative J. C. Watts of Oklahoma.
Republicans Allen West and Tim Scott of South Carolina were added to this elite group in November. During a radio interview following his election, West pledged to become a member of the Democratic-dominated CBC. “….it’s so important that we break down this ‘monolithic voice’ that continues to talk about victimization and dependency in the black community,” said West. And join he did.
Like the late Sen. Edward Brooke, Representative Scott apparently felt he didn’t need the hassle. J.C. Watts also did not engage the group during his tenure, saying “…they said that I had sold out and [called me an] Uncle Tom. But I have my thoughts. And I think they’re race-hustling poverty pimps.” It is true that despite the best efforts of the CBC, alienation of the black poor from the American mainstream has grown worse.
But it’s not just black Republicans and their views that are unwelcome in the CBC. Pete Stark, D-CA. and Steve Cohen, D-TN., both white, tried and failed to become members. Cohen’s district is 60 percent black. The Caucus agreed that the group ought to remain “exclusively black.”
Conservative Congressman West has his work cut out for him. First, he needs to remind the CBC that the social and economic needs of black Americans are no greater or no less than the needs of all Americans in the current economy.
Persuade them to take down its shingles as the only legitimate voice for black concerns. Remind the group of its identity crisis. It’s a relic, a dinosaur, an organization that has outlived its usefulness. Feeding on white guilt, it is morally and intellectually insolvent and undeserving of broad support or respect.
Candidate Barack Obama campaigned on a vision of “One America.” He took office as president of the United States in 2008. His election should have immediately rendered the Congressional Black Caucus — and any pretense for it to exist – obsolete.