Happy New Year, everyone! Dana asked me yesterday, “When are you going to update your blog?” And I suddenly felt convicted. It’s been hard for me to regroup from the holiday break. Plus, I’m not sure I have much to say just yet; still searching for my 2009 voice, I guess.
Maybe another reason I’ve avoided blogging is that I’m so darned embarrassed to live in Illinois right now. After Governor Blagojevich’s arrest and tragic downfall, I thought the guy would keep a low profile and not stir up anymore trouble. Alas, Blago’s ego wouldn’t allow him to keep still. And so, last week he goes and names Roland Burris, a veteran African American politician, to fill Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat. You all know the rest.
Now, this week we have the fiasco of Mr. Burris going to Washington for the swearing-in ceremony and being turned away. We’ve got black politicians and church leaders in Illinois declaring that Burris has a legal right to the seat and should be allowed to fill the vacancy because there are currently no African Americans in the Senate. We’ve got President-elect Obama, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Senator Harry Reid, and an assortment of other folks saying Burris should not be allowed to join the Senate because of the cloud of corruption hanging over Blagojevich’s governorship. And on and on it goes.
I need therapy, folks. As a lifelong Illinoisian (with a brief sojourn to Florida), I’m feeling lots of shame these days. What in the world is going on with my state?
What’s really sad is the way Blagojevich is brazenly playing the race card in this situation to apparently distract attention from his own sorry plight and curry favor with African Americans, who may be his last source of support. And what’s even sadder is the way some African American leaders, both from the political and church arenas, have played along with Blago’s desperate ploy. Looking especially bad in this whole mess is Roland Burris, who once seemed like a wise and respectable public servant. Why on earth would he go along with Blagojevich’s plan, knowing that it would lead to the very debacle we’re seeing right now in Springfield and Washington?
Ironically, the last power play for this particular Senate seat also involved a brazen dealing of the race card. Remember back in 2004 when Illinois Republicans recruited Alan Keyes, an outspoken African American conservative from Maryland, to come to the Land of Lincoln and battle Barack Obama for that U.S. Senate seat? I never thought I’d see such an outrageous display of racial politics in Illinois again—until now.
So, what do you think? As you might expect, there are plenty of interesting commentaries floating around the blogosphere and other media. Monroe Anderson, at EbonyJet.com, sarcastically quips, “[A]pparently, the [Senate] seat that once belonged to the president-elect now commands exclusive dibs from black pols in Illinois, period. No whites need apply. Asians or Hispanics shouldn’t bother either.” In an interview with NPR, Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic also argues that race shouldn’t matter in the Burris case. And Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page offers an insightful overview of the current saga in all its racialized messiness.