Black and white issues
By Lady Liberty
One of the biggest stories to come out of Washington in recent days involves one of DC's biggest mouths. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) has made some unflattering headlines before (she was roundly chastised after asserting that the Bush administration knew of the 9/11 attacks in advance but chose to do nothing). She lost her seat in Congress not long afterwards, but ran again and returned to Congress with what appeared to be slightly more dignity and circumspection. Apparently, her change of attitude was even less temporary than was her hiatus from the House.
McKinney's latest PR problem began when she tried to rush past security at the Longworth House Office Building. McKinney wasn't wearing the lapel pin that identifies members of Congress for security personnel, and the guard didn't recognize her. The guard asked her to stop, but McKinney kept going. After asking her to stop twice more and being rebuffed each time, the officer grabbed McKinney's arm. It was then, say witnesses, that McKinney turned and hit the guard in the chest.
The Capitol Police have investigated the matter and have turned over their findings to prosecutors who are presenting the case to a grand jury. It's possible Rep. McKinney will be charged with assault. McKinney, meanwhile, wasted no time at all in accusing the security guard of racism as well as of touching her "inappropriately." Since the matter is under investigation, McKinney isn't talking about specifics, but she's adamant that the bottom line underscoring the incident isn't her lack of cooperation or her physical response, but rather "racial profiling."
Capitol Police, of course, deny that racism was a factor. They say that anyone would have been stopped under similar circumstances, and the Chief wonders aloud why McKinney didn't simply identify herself. (McKinney, meanwhile, is incensed that police aren't trained to recognize all members of Congress). But many others in Congress seem to have the same general feeling as the chief, including members of McKinney's own party. Republicans prepared a resolution recognizing the Capitol Police for their professionalism and important work (one for which McKinney later said she'd vote).
Neither McKinney or some others in Congress are going to leave things alone until the grand jury comes back with a decision to indict or not to indict. McKinney is continuing to defend her actions, including during an "apology" offered on the House floor during which she said, "There should not have been any physical contact in this incident," and "I am sorry this misunderstanding happened at all..." For his part, disgraced former Majority Leader Tom DeLay says it's McKinney who's the racist and promises that if someone else doesn't file ethics charges against her, he will (which, if I weren't afraid McKinney would accuse me of being a racist, I'd suggest is something like the pot calling the kettle black even as I happen to agree with DeLay).
I've been to Washington, DC, and I've visited the Longworth House Office Building on several occasions. Every time, I was guided through a metal detector and my purse was x-rayed. And every time, the security personnel were smiling and friendly. Although they never asked whether I had legitimate business there (I did), they did frequently ask if I needed directions to any specific office. I usually accepted gratefully; Longworth is very, very big! Security really wasn't overly concerned with people leaving the building, but guards invariably nodded and said good-bye when I left.
Because there are so many offices there, the entrances are literally teeming with people coming and going. On my most recent trip to Washington, a Senate building was overrun with visitors who lined the hallway and crowded in alcoves and the lobby awaiting the results of a committee vote having to do with legislation addressing the handicapped. Even so, the delay in getting into the building was minimal, and the guards were still in good humor. All around me were men and women of every color in the rainbow and apparently of a variety of economic classes. Many were blind. And during the entire time I observed, not a one of them was treated with anything but professional courtesy.
Of course, while I was waiting in line to get inside various office buildings, others were breezing right past metal detectors. Most of them were probably Congressional aides and members of Congress. With more than 500 members of Congress, however, all of whom have full staffs, I can't imagine any security personnel could possibly be expected to recognize everyone with authorized access to the building even if they got the training McKinney seems to think should be required. Perhaps all of those I saw skipping full security without incident were wearing their lapel pins.
To demand security recognize her, and to be incensed a guard might actually touch her, is the height of arrogance. Some accounts suggest that Cynthia McKinney is, indeed, an arrogant woman. While arrogance is without doubt a fault, we can almost excuse it from someone who attains a position of power and who enjoys wielding it. Her insistence that the incident was a case of "racial profiling" and that she was singled out because she was a "black woman" can also be attributed to her arrogance. After all, nothing is ever her fault, so there must be an outside reason found. Race is, if nothing else, convenient.
I don't excuse McKinney's obvious attitude issues, but at least they're understandable. It seems Cynthia McKinney is not a particularly nice woman, and she's apparently power drunk to boot. But immediately upon McKinney's first accusations of racism, she was joined by black leaders who solemnly nodded at her every claim, and who joined her in demanding that something be done about racial profiling. None of them so much as mentioned the fact that McKinney ignored a police officer's order to stop. Not a peep was heard about the appropriateness of a woman who would hit a police officer with a cell phone.
Cynthia McKinney's lawyer says we should forget about what she did that day and focus instead on the issue of race. I agree. Singling out people because of their skin color is just plain wrong. Of course, that's not what happened here. What did happen was singularly bad behavior which we're now being urged to ignore because the person engaging in the singularly bad behavior is black. In other words, we're not supposed to be racist, but we're supposed to base our entire understanding of this situation purely on race.
McKinney is teaching a lot of people all about race. Unfortunately, it's not a lesson I think she'd really like all of us to learn. Those who stand behind her because they, too, are black might want to make a note of it. We're learning quite a bit about racism from them, too.
Lady Liberty, a senior writer for ESR, is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at
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