An article in the Atlantic last weekend was headlined, "Disparate Impact: Black Lawmakers and Ethics Investigations". Here's an excerpt.
African-Americans make up 10 percent of the House, but as of the end of February, five of the sitting six named lawmakers under review by the House Ethics Committee are black. The pattern isn't new. At one point in late 2009, seven lawmakers were known to be involved in formal House ethics inquiries; all were members of the Congressional Black Caucus. An eighth caucus member, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, had also been under investigation, but his probe was halted temporarily while the Justice Department undertook an inquiry of its own.
All told, about one-third of sitting black lawmakers have been named in an ethics probe during their careers, according to a National Journal review.
Only two members of Congress have been formally charged with ethics violations in recent years and have faced the specter of public trials -- Reps. Charles Rangel of New York (censured) and Maxine Waters of California (investigation ongoing). Both are black. There are no African-Americans in the Senate. Remember the most recent black senator, Roland Burris of Illinois? Reprimanded by the Senate Ethics Committee in 2009.
Those are the facts, as Cleaver said. The question is why so many African-American members have been in the ethics spotlight.
In interviews with more than a dozen members of the CBC, an unsettling thread emerges: They feel targeted. There could be no other explanation, many said, for what they see as disproportionate treatment at the hands of ethics investigators. They describe a disquieting reality of being black in Congress today: a feeling that each move they make is unfairly scrutinized. "We all feel threatened," said Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, as he sat by the fireplace off the House floor. "If the only reason that you would suffer a complaint is because of your skin color, that is a cause for concern."
It is a grave accusation: Could the congressional ethics process, ostensibly safeguarded by professional staff members and by a bipartisan structure that allows nothing to move forward unless Democrats and Republicans agree, be singling out African-Americans?
Other explanations are possible. Perhaps more ethical issues arise within the black caucus than within the House as a whole. Many of its members occupy safe seats, after all, and have been in Washington for decades. Maybe some of them grew too comfortable or insulated, and they failed to track changing ethics standards.
Or maybe they're disproportionately the victims of an investigation process that relies heavily on outside information from watchdog groups with their own agendas, or on big-city media prone to examining politicians in their urban backyards. Or maybe their white counterparts are quicker to retain high-priced counsel to make ethics inquiries disappear before they ever become public or have quickly resigned rather than face a probe.
Whatever the reason, the disparity has had a profound effect on African-American legislators on Capitol Hill.
There's more at the link.
May I suggest what's at the heart of the problem? It's not politically correct to speak of it, but then, I've never been accused of being politically correct. The problem is that the Black community as a whole in the USA has a very serious problem with crime and dishonesty. This becomes clear from an examination of US crime statistics. I've mentioned the subject on five previous occasions, most recently last month. In my 2008 article I cited a superb study by Heather MacDonald for City Journal in which she pointed out:
The favorite culprits for high black prison rates include a biased legal system, draconian drug enforcement, and even prison itself. None of these explanations stands up to scrutiny. The black incarceration rate is overwhelmingly a function of black crime. Insisting otherwise only worsens black alienation and further defers a real solution to the black crime problem.
Racial activists usually remain assiduously silent about that problem. But in 2005, the black homicide rate was over seven times higher than that of whites and Hispanics combined, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. From 1976 to 2005, blacks committed over 52 percent of all murders in America. In 2006, the black arrest rate for most crimes was two to nearly three times blacks’ representation in the population. Blacks constituted 39.3 percent of all violent-crime arrests, including 56.3 percent of all robbery and 34.5 percent of all aggravated-assault arrests, and 29.4 percent of all property-crime arrests.
There's much more at the link. Highly recommended reading.
Because Black legislators are drawn from, and elected by, and are (literally and figuratively) representative of their community, it's no surprise to me whatsoever to see that community's problems reflected in their (lack of) ethical behavior. The real tragedy, in fact, is that these leaders are setting such an awful example for the rest of their community! How many young Black people are looking at the behavior of their legislators and thinking to themselves, "Well, if that's how they behave, why shouldn't I do the same thing?" When a so-called 'Reverend' commits adultery and fathers a child out of wedlock, and then uses money donated by the public for other purposes to pay child support; when a Congressman is caught red-handed with tens of thousands of dollars in bribe money in his freezer; when one of the most senior Representatives in Congress is censured for numerous ethics violations involving hundreds of thousands of dollars . . . what sort of message does this send to their constituents?
What we need are honest, upright, moral, ethical legislators - people of the caliber of Dr. Bill Cosby, whose 'Pound Cake Speech' is still one of the most profound analyses of the problems of the Black community in the USA. Here's an excerpt.
Why can't the Black community elect more legislators of Dr. Cosby's ilk? That would take care of the ethics situation overnight!
Oh - and if anyone wants to accuse me of being racist for saying this, I'll ram their words right back down their throat, and spit in their eye, and dare them to say it again. I spent almost two decades of my life working very hard to get rid of one of the most pernicious systems of racism of the 20th century. That cost me many friends, and I still bear the scars of those years on my body and in my mind and soul. I learned the hard way that it doesn't matter a damn what color someone's skin may be, or what group they belong to. What matters is the color of their soul . . . and according to the Master in whom I believe, that has to be white. Not Caucasian-skin-white, but white as in cleansed from sin, and kept that way by Divine grace. I'm not yet in that state myself, and I'm sure most of my readers would agree that they're not either. Still, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus might do well to think about that . . .