Detroit appears to have its own version of the Elizabeth Warren Cherokee controversy. Congressman Hansen Clarke, D-13th District, has been attacked by his opponents of not being black. Forced into an unusual position Wednesday, responding to allegations that he’s masquerading as black to get votes. A robocall is informing Detroit voters that Clarke is not really black in a clearly racist appeal. Clarke is running for the newly redrawn 14th Congressional District, which includes Detroit, against two black women, Mary Waters and Brenda Lawrence.
The controversy in Detroit even has the same type of birth certificate controversy involving a relative. Opponents object that his mother’s birth certificate lists her as white. However, Clarke insists that she was a light-skinned black and that such individuals were often listed as white on birth certificates.
We previously discussed the propriety of President Obama campaigning as the black candidate in appealing to African-American voters. This is the reverse: campaigning against someone because they are not black. However, the issue remains similar in the debate over whether a racial community should favor (or disfavor) a candidate over the ability (or inability) to share their experiences.
There was a time when candidates were opposed for not being white and the nation denounced such campaigns as racist. The response to the Detroit robocall has been remarkably mild in comparison. Is there a difference?