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Unfinished business. (Publisher's Page).

We have become comfortable with the idea that African Americans have achieved something approaching parity when it comes to political representation in American government. The 38-member Congressional Black Caucus, founded 31 years ago, is an established institution on the American political landscape. And also, over the past three decades, African Americans have distinguished themselves as mayors of hundreds of municipalities, including many of the largest and best-run cities. During the past decade, our increasing, and appropriate, focus on economic advancement has caused some to conclude that the battle for greater political representation is, if not won, then at least no longer a central factor in continuing the empowerment of African Americans.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The task of gaining true political representation and empowerment is unfinished business--and will remain so for as long as the U.S. Senate and the National Governors' Association remain taxpayer-financed, white-only clubs. When L. Douglas Wilder was elected governor of Virginia in 1990, he became the first African American to hold that office in any state. In the eight years since he left, there has not been a second. And there have been only two African Americans elected to the powerful, 100-member Senate since Reconstruction. Edward M. Brooke, a Republican, represented Massachusetts in the Senate from 1967 to 1979, and Democrat Carol Moseley-Braun represented Illinois from 1992 to 1998. In other words, while African Americans constitute more than 12% of the nation's citizens, we have never experienced more than 1% of senatorial representation--and that for a grand total of only 18 years.

That's why our support of qualified, experienced gubernatorial candidates, such as New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall and former Oregon State Treasurer Jim Hill, is critically important. McCall and Hill are among the seven African Americans running for governor this year. Other black candidates are seeking the office in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In addition, there are two African Americans--former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and former State House Speaker Dan Blue in North Carolina--running for U.S. Senate seats. On the heels of the 2001 presidential election (and the disastrous Florida primary), the 2002 elections are our opportunity to take the battle for black political representation to the next level.

The Voting Eights Act of 1965, largely responsible for the very existence of the CBC, does not include a "glass ceiling" provision for African Americans, dead-ending our political aspirations at the offices of mayor, U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives, and, therefore, locking us out of the highest levels of our government. We can no longer afford to have zero representation among our nation's senators and governors, if for no other reason than these offices have historically been the stepping stones to the presidency of the United States.

It's long past time for us to take care of this particular piece of unfinished business.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:accounting for unequal African American political representation
Author:Graves, Earl G., Sr.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:481
Previous Article:Web columns. (blackenterprise.com).
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