In 1949 at the age of 17 I began to develop an interest in politics. Over the next 5 years I asked questions and spent a large amount of time in the library researching the history of the two major parties, Democrats and Republicans.
The answers I received from most voters were never satisfactory, but I was more satisfied when I happened to read what the parties’ standard political platform were. The Democratic Party stressed that they, the Democrats, would support the well-being of Black people, namely that the welfare system was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for Black folks and that the government would be available for us from the cradle to the grave.
The Republican Party highlighted that President Abe Lincoln freed the slaves and they believed in affording Blacks the opportunity to share in the American dream and would be available to help you when the need existed.
I made the choice of registering Republican, because I resented the local Democrats always reminding Black voters about how President Roosevelt had created the welfare system exclusively for Black people.
In the early years of my active involvement in a local, but historic campaign, an event took place that I have never forgotten. It had to do with the mindset of too many Black persons today and yesterday. A White committeeman called MR. CHARLIE was being opposed by a Black man named Paul. The morning of the election, as Paul walked up to the polls to vote, he was challenged by an elderly woman who blocked his path and asked him, “Who do you think you are to challenge Mr. Charlie?” and she smacked him as hard as she could. There was the Pittsburgh mayor’s race when attorney Byrd R. Brown and Councilwoman Sophie Masloff opposed each other. The mention of qualification had always been an issue when any Black runs for office. However, in this particular campaign it was clearly established that the Black attorney was clearly the most qualified candidate to ever run for office in the history of the City of Pittsburgh. Attorney Brown was defeated by prominent colored persons whose loyalty to the Democratic Party meant more than a Black man being elected to the position of mayor. It was the same mindset that the old woman exhibited when she smacked Paul and said, “Who do you think you are to challenge Mr. Charlie?”
There will be several candidate affairs being held on the upcoming elections described as informational only, when, in fact, most of the sponsors do have a favorite. A person who has an organization who is hoping to get a grant is reluctant to support the person they truly believe is the best candidate, incumbents generally get re-elected. I have sat in several meetings where persons who are in attendance frequently say, “The incumbent and I go back a number of years,” and my response generally is, “What does that mean?”
It generally means they are not open-minded and they have made of their minds that they don’t believe in change. It has always been my belief that no one deserves to run unchallenged, because you send a false message that whatever a person in office has done or failed to do, it is acceptable. Oftentimes persons are vilified for running for office, when the truth is that you and I have the right to run. I have never been involved in a political campaign that there was any question as to whom I was supporting and why.
I close this week’s column saying to you, “Run for public office.”
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