Civil Rights

"First Black Senator Since Reconstruction from the South…"

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According to someone who watches a lot of CNN and writes to Jonah Goldberg at National Review's Corner, CNN has been making much of the fact that if Harold Ford manages to overcome accusations of datin' white women, he will be "the first black senator for the South since Reconstruction" (and other media have as well). (Jonah tried to make some tired "media is unfair to the GOP" hay of this by complaining that they aren't emphasizing the same about Maryland's black GOP senatorial hopeful Michael Steele–and feel free to join the debate about whether Maryland is southern or not, but please write straight to Jonah.)

Just as I can use varied aspects of my own heritage (Catholic father, Jewish mother, confirmed in the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church) for my own rhetorical advantage depending on context, I can play fightin' Yank (born in New York City), ragin' Rebel (spent ages 3-22 in the faux-South of Florida), and Western pioneer (blissful resident of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles sobre El Rio Porciuncula–that Los Angeles to you, pardner–for the past 12 years) alternately depending on rhetorical benefit and how offended I care to pretend to be.

So I'm privileging the reputation of no part of the country when I point out that such emphasis on the South's failure to elect black senators seems to be playing a bit unfairly on old fashioned notions of the South as the uniquely villainous home of untranquil race relations continuing to this day–as I don't see it so often specifically noted that, for example, the West-of-the-Rockies lands I currently call home have never, ever, never elected a black senator–and that the North has done so only once (Edward Brooke from Massachusetts, 1967-79), and the Midwest only twice–including our only currently seated black senator, the next president of the United States, Barack Obama–the one before him was Carole Moseley-Braun, also from Illinois–the only state to ever elect two black senators…since Reconstruction, even! It should also be noted that Sen. Obama, if he runs and wins the presidency, will be the first black president elected in America since Reconstruction.

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  1. I’m the first white dude named Chris to post on this thread.

    I have to say, all of the “first this” and “first that” gets a bit tiring. Identity politics are rather boring.

  2. Or Maryland voters could elect Steele and get the first black Senator from a former slave-holding state since Reconstruction (or some such).

    Do people still get their news from TV? That’s so quaint!

  3. Faux-South? You should know better than that. Yes, it’s much less “South” when you’re talking Miami and Tampa, but I daresay that the entire Panhandle, most of Jacksonville, all of North Central Florida, and plenty of spots here and there in South Florida are indubitably “Southern”. You don’t remember any rednecks in the Gainesville area? We used to go to some ABC Lounge in Archer or someplace like that, which was populated exclusively by people I’d certainly classify as Southern.

    Oh, I agree with the point of the post–this shortfall of blacks in the Senate, which will likely be labeled as a Southern issue if Ford loses, is an American issue. To the extent that the racial identity of candidates matters, anyway. I don’t think it’s racism or any other “ism” that’s keeping blacks or women (what are there, 14 or 15 females in the Senate?) out of the Senate.

  4. It should also be noted that Sen. Obama, if he runs and wins the presidency, will be the first black president elected in America since Reconstruction.

    Not counting Bill Clinton, that is.

  5. Brian, a few technicalities – Jewish is an ethnic and religious designation, Catholic is not. You may be half Irish but not half Catholic. Obama is half African and half European-American and Ford appears to have more Euro than Afro blood. Anyone know why biracial Asian/Europeans are called Eurasian and biracial Afro/Eros have no such term?

  6. Probably because “Eurasia” is the name of the combined European-Asian landmass, while there is no such term for Europe and Africa (or Europe and America, or Australia and Antarctica, etc.). It’s an ethnic designation piggybacking on an existing term.

  7. Dave–I’m 100 percent Catholic, and yet also, according to many definitions of the ethnic variety, 100 percent Jewish, with my Jewish mother. Luckily, someone raised in the mysteries of the Trinity can accept and live in such an apparent paradox. The point is: I can with some justice adopt either identity depending on how it privileges me in a debate. Need I add that there is meant to be some humor involved in making that point? Perhaps I do.

  8. Anyone know why biracial Asian/Europeans are called Eurasian and biracial Afro/Eros have no such term?

    Because no one wants to be called an Afropean?

  9. “…and feel free to join the debate about whether Maryland is southern or not, but please write straight to Jonah.”

    I was born in D.C. proper, but I grew up in Maryland. …’bout halfway between D.C. and Baltimore.

    It’s South of the Mason-Dixon, it was a slave state, I remember seeing plenty of locals with an apparent affection for the stars and bars, and I’ve never had better fried chicken, fried tomatoes or hush puppies. The Redskins theme song, when I was just a youngster, garnered plenty of enthusiasm with the last line of the last stanza “…fight for Old Dixie”, and y’all (now where’d I pick that up?) are wondering whether it’s part of the South?

    cc Jonah Goldberg

    I suspect some people, many from out of town, think that anywhere they’ve been with some semblance of culture can’t be southern.

    P.S. Texas, on the other hand, isn’t now and never was part of the South.

  10. This is why I can’t stand baseball. Every analyst has to point out whenever a hitter becomes “the first person since 1937 to hit a line-drive double to left field on an odd-numbered Wednesday off a left-handed pitcher who did not start the game, and who has pitched more than two but fewer than four innings when the hitter had previously struck out to a right handed pitcher named Pete who is allergic to dogs.”

  11. Because no one wants to be called an Afropean?

    That made me laugh out loud. Thanks.

  12. Afropean

    Now that’s funny, I don’t care where you’re from.

  13. No one wants to be called a Eurika either!

  14. I don’t think anyone would complain if we quietly struck Carole Mosely-Braun from the record books.

    Although, now that I think about it, why should we? Being stupid, venal, malicious, and corrupt is hardly unusual behavior in a Senator.

  15. How many people who are half Asian/white, actually get called Eurasian?

    Plus, Eurasian is actually a word, even though in this context it is used incorrectly.

  16. re: David at 5:23.

    It’s totally awesome how I can’t read.

  17. Being from Maryland, I don’t consider it “the south”… Although my unscientific measurement is this.. Driving south on the shore, I don’t see any Confederate flags in MD. I can tell as soon as I hit VA because there are many many Confederate flags, “welcome to Dixie” billboards, stores/gas stations with the flag painted on the building,etc. The south feels a lot different.

  18. Um, if Ford is black then Connecticut is a Southern State.

  19. Johncjackson, what part of Virginia are you talking about?

  20. Growing up in South Carolina it often came up in conversation that the “real” south consisted of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tenn., Alabama, and sometimes Virginia. I’ve been told that BBQ and Sweet Tea can be hard to find in VA, which is a staple of any southern state.

    Not saying I agree, just remembering these arguments as kid. Gotta love the south.

  21. The Real South is Alabama and Mississippi. The Carolinas are basically New York City, and Virginia might as well be Canada.

  22. Ever been down by Upper Marlborough, MD?

    Yee-haw. We done gunna pave us up a whole mess o’roads, soon as we get that thar old truck runnin’.

  23. born in maryland in the ’50s and can remember school segregation, beaches that were off limits to blacks and jews, and separate bathrooms. it’s the south. listen to any speeches by the late, great louie goldstein for proof.

  24. …which was populated exclusively by people I’d certainly classify as Southern.

    I won’t argue that north Florida is southern, but if all it takes is that type of population, Ohio’s part of the south as well… and most of the Carolinas can be considered new New York.

  25. Being borned and raised in these here Western Unified states of ‘Murrica, I always considered Maryland to be the East, and possibly the Northeast depending on how many drinks were in my system.

    However, I am aware the Real(tm) Northeasterners, especially New Yorkers consider Maryland the south. Just sayin’.

  26. born in maryland in the ’50s and can remember school segregation, beaches that were off limits to blacks and jews, and separate bathrooms.

    Hmph, sounds like the current situation in upstate New York.

    *ducks*

  27. Since a liger is the offspring of a male lion and female tiger, and a tion is the offspring of a male tiger and a female lion, the Afropean’s father has links to Africa and the mother links to Europe. Just in case anyone was wondering.

  28. From a historical standpoint I think it has to be considered part of the South. The only reason it didn’t vote to leave the union was because Lincoln invaded before they could vote. So they are northern only on a technicality. And that technicality is easily trumped by the fact that it was Maryland, not the so called “real South” that managed to assasinate honest Abe.

  29. Hmph, sounds like the current situation in upstate New York.

    there’s beaches in upstate ny? what do you do, chip the ice away so you can get in the water?

    regarding the taxonomy question, my family on both sides originated in israel. given its location, does that make me afrosian? asican? what????

  30. “there’s beaches in upstate ny? what do you do, chip the ice away so you can get in the water?”

    Gets pretty warm in the summer. FYI, NY is actually below the Arctic Circle.

  31. Of course, Tennessee was not a “Reconstruction” state, since it never seceeded. So of what historical importance is it if it elects its first Black since Reconstruction? No more importance than the same event in a northern state.

  32. Should Harold Ford Jr. win the TN Senate seat, we may all expect some entertainment over the next 6 years.

    Harold Ford Sr. has been indicted for bank fraud. Former Memphis police officers report that members of the Ford family have sold rock from the family funeral home. Members of a TN professional organization of funeral home owners report that Harold Sr. has accepted bribes to further legislative aims of the funeral industry.

    Sr’s brother John Ford awaits trial for accepting bribes during his term as a TN State Senator. After John stepped down, his sister Ophelia won his seat in a special election by 13 votes. A state senate election committee confirmed 12 of the 13 votes were invalid, as in cast by felons and deceased people.

    E.H. Ford of the Shelby County (metro Memphis) County Commission has taken bribes from a local builder.

    Harold Jr.’s brother Jake Ford is running for the 9th District seat in the TN house. His campaign strategy includes publicly bashing his brother Harold Jr and questioning his opponent’s opposition to a TN Constitutional Amendment that prohibits gay marriage “hopefully not for personal reasons.”

    Fords are fun! The whole country might soon experience a taste of Memphis politics.

  33. FYI, NY is actually below the Arctic Circle.

    i’ve been to buffalo, you couldn’t convince me. we californians are snotty about the climate.

  34. Peter K.,

    Tennessee most certainly did secede. It was the last state to do so, in June 1861, but it voted more than two-to-one to leave the Union. Here’s a site with the various ordinances of secession. There was an Army of Tennessee, some major battles were fought in Tennessee, a large number of CSA soldiers came from there, etc.

  35. Perhaps Peter K. is thinking of Kentucky.

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