Massachusetts voters were the first to elect a Black person to the U.S. Senate, in 1966. But in 2020, amid a national reckoning on racism, they almost certainly will reelect Sen. Ed Markey, a white man who has spent more than four decades in Congress, or replace him with Rep. Joe Kennedy, a white man who would be the fourth member of his family to become a senator.
The incongruity of the current moment and this Democratic primary matchup crystallized during a debate this week.
"Let's just get real for a moment," moderator Latoya Edwards of NBC Boston said. "There are Black and brown people watching right now, Black mothers like me who are looking and saying, 'In this time of social justice, representation optics matter.' ... They see two white men vying for the U.S. Senate seat to represent Massachusetts."
Edwards pressed the candidates to "give us specifics on what you've done, and what you will do, to show that Black lives matter."
Markey and Kennedy took similar approaches to what may be a key question in their contest, each beginning with an anecdote meant to demonstrate early allyship that was principled, not popular. But closer examinations of the episodes Markey and Kennedy recounted suggest they may not have been quite as bold as they would have voters believe.
'One Of The First Democrats To Declare That Black Lives Matter'
In Kennedy's telling, he used one of the biggest opportunities of his political career to take a stand that others in his party shied away from.
"When I was asked to give the Democratic response to Donald Trump's first State of the Union with that national platform I was one of the first Democrats to declare that Black lives matter," Kennedy claimed.
In reality, Kennedy didn't make his own declaration that Black lives matter on that night in January 2018; rather, he quoted demonstrators who use "Black lives matter" as a rallying cry.
Kennedy included the demonstrators, along with police officers, in a section of his speech that lauded various people for actions he considered admirable. Here's an excerpt, with emphasis added:
You swarmed Washington last year to ensure no parent has to worry if they can afford to save their child's life.
You proudly marched together last weekend thousands deep in the streets of Las Vegas and Philadelphia and Nashville.
You sat high atop your mom's shoulders and held a sign that read: "Build a wall, and my generation will tear it down."
You bravely say, "Me too." You steadfastly say, "Black lives matter."
You wade through flood waters, battle hurricanes, and brave wildfires and mudslides to save a stranger.
You fight your own, quiet battles every single day.
You drag your weary bodies to that extra shift so your families won't feel the sting of scarcity.
You leave loved ones at home to defend our country overseas, or patrol our neighborhoods overnight.
Kennedy's remarks signaled support for the Black Lives Matter movement, but there is a meaningful difference between actually "declar[ing] that Black lives matter" and merely attributing the phrase to others even approvingly said Daunasia Yancey, the founder of Black Lives Matter Boston.
"We need more," Yancey said. White allies such as Kennedy and Markey may have done "more than what everyone else did" in the past, she added, but in her view that is "because mostly what everyone else did was nothing."
"The back-and-forth trying to get a medal for caring is silly, and it's not useful," Yancey said.
In a statement, Kennedy spokesman Brian Phillips Jr. said, "Joe was proud to use one of the Democratic Party's highest platforms to recognize the BLM movement and the activists driving change in every corner of the country."
As for timing, Kennedy's claim to have been "one of the first Democrats" is hard to evaluate because it is imprecise. It is certainly true that many politicians were slow to adopt the phrase "Black lives matter" until it was mainstream enough to be emblazoned inside and outside Fenway Park.
It is also true that, as Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton wrote in 2016, "The second day of Hillary Clinton's Democratic National Convention could have been subtitled 'Black Lives Matter.' "
[Clinton] made it clear where she stands on the controversial issue when she invited nine mothers who have lost children at the hands of police or by street violence to speak on her behalf.
The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and others collectively made perhaps the most impassioned plea yet on Tuesday for rallying around Clinton's presidential bid: She isn't afraid to say that black lives matter ...
Their remarks brought many of the delegates to tears. Chants of "Black Lives Matter" swelled from the convention floor.
Clinton's top competitors in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, also said"Black lives matter" during the campaign. Then-President Barack Obama repeatedly defended the phrase against critics who said it diminished other lives.
And Markey used it at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event that year.
So, while Kennedy was ahead of some in 2018, he also was in the company of some of his party's most prominent members.
'It Hurt My Career'
Asked during Sunday's debate what he has done "to show that Black lives matter," Markey started byciting his support for creating a majority-Black state Senate district in 1973. He was a freshman in the state House of Representatives, at the time.
"I had to make a decision to take on the Democratic state leadership to make sure there was a Black Senate seat, and I did," Markey said. "And it hurt my career."
Any price Markey may have paid for his stance would appear to be modest, however. He won reelection the following year and styled himself as a political maverick when he ran successfully for Congress in 1976.
"In the end, it didn't hurt his career," Markey Campaign Manager John Walsh allowed, "because he didn't last there very long. He moved" on to Washington.
Though things worked out, Markey did assume some political risk. Redrawing the 40-seat state Senate map to create a majority-Black district meant that an existing member of the chamber would likely lose his place and jeopardizing a fellow lawmaker's reelection chances is no way to make friends.
In an interview, Markey said he acquired a "pariah-like status," though he acknowledged that was not because of his support for a majority-Black district alone. Bucking party leaders became "the pathway that I walked, and the first vote on that pathway was the Black Senate seat."
The most significant vote was not related to racial justice but rather to judicial reform, Markey said. In that standoff, he so aggravated some fellow Democrats that they stuck his desk in a State House hallway, in a show of protest.
Markey spun the incident into a campaign slogan: "The bosses may tell Ed Markey where to sit. No one tells Ed Markey where to stand."
Bill Owens, who became the first Black state senator in Massachusetts, has endorsed Markey for reelection to the U.S. Senate this year. In a campaign video, Owens vouches for the notion that Markey stuck out his neck during the debate over a majority-Black district 47 years ago.
According to Owens, senior Democrats in the state Legislature "began to threaten [Markey] that he would lose his seat and that he would not be able to be elected ever again in Massachusetts."
Those threats proved hollow and, though Markey could not have been certain of their emptiness at the time, his "decision to take on the Democratic state leadership" may have been eased by powerful allies.
Then-Gov. Francis Sargent was a vocal supporter of creating amajority-Black state Senate district. He vetoed a redistricting proposal because it failed to create one, saying, "I will not approve a plan that, in effect, disenfranchises a large number of the commonwealth's citizens."
The push for a majority-Black district also had the influential backing of Massachusetts' senior U.S. senator at the time:Ted Kennedy.
And while Owens credits Markey for supporting a majority-Black district, he said in an interview that "the guy who was the leading member of the white community that we relied on was Barney Frank," a state representative at the time, before his 32-year tenure in Congress.
Frankaccused the state Senate president of squashing bills in retaliation against lawmakers who advocated for a majority-Black district. But Owens said he "could not imagine" that Markey was targeted.
So, although Markey strained relations with some important colleagues in the state Legislature, he also had political heavyweights on his side and ultimately parlayed his "troublemaker" reputation, as Walsh described it, into higher office.
'I Will Always Give People Credit Who Stand For The Right Thing'
Whether Markey and Kennedy merit profiles in courage,"I will always give people credit who stand for the right thing, regardless of what the description is," saidSetti Warren, executive director of Harvard'sShorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.
"I don't doubt either Congressman Kennedy's or Senator Markey's commitment to seeing progress being made for Black people in our state and our country," he added.
Markey has cosponsored a reparations bill filed by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and is partnering with Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Boston on legislation that would end qualified immunityfor police,the legal doctrine that shields public officials from personal liability for acts committed in the line of duty.
Kennedy is a founding member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and is partnering with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York on a bill that would facilitate prosecutions of police officers for civil rights violations.
Still, Warren echoed Yancey's call for figures such as Markey and Kennedy to do more, saying "the policies and the efforts that have been promoted by many politicians have not worked."
See the original post:
- Face facts: Black Lives Matter is all about hate - February 10th, 2021
- What Is The Black Lives Matter Movement? - WorldAtlas - February 10th, 2021
- Who Is Black Lives Matter? - Washington Examiner - February 10th, 2021
- Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S ... - February 10th, 2021
- The Agenda of Black Lives Matter Is Far Different From the ... - February 10th, 2021
- Black Lives Matter: A primer on what it is and what it ... - February 10th, 2021
- PolitiFact | Is Black Lives Matter a Marxist movement? - February 10th, 2021
- Boulder's Motus Theater to hear about immigration from Black Lives Matter founder - coloradopolitics.com - February 10th, 2021
- These BLM activists are fighting for the civil rights of the next generation - CNN - February 10th, 2021
- Lompoc Black Lives Matter organizers awarded Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize - Lompoc Record - February 10th, 2021
- #BlackLivesMatter: A Silver Lining to the Movement's Aesthetic - Harvard Political Review - February 10th, 2021
- Livingston Kicks Off Black History Month Events with Black Lives Matter Banner Dedication - TAPinto.net - February 10th, 2021
- BLM influencers: 10 Black Lives Matter activists on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter you should follow - USA TODAY - February 4th, 2021
- A man in Illinois pleaded guilty to inciting a violent riot in support of Black Lives Matter - Insider - Insider - February 4th, 2021
- From Black Panthers to Black Lives Matter: The fight for equality continues - KTVU San Francisco - February 4th, 2021
- How Black Lives Matter Came to the Academy - The New Yorker - February 4th, 2021
- Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize awarded to Lompoc Black Lives Matter organizers - Lompoc Record - February 4th, 2021
- Nonprofit barred for supporting Black Lives Matter may be allowed back in Maine jail - Press Herald - February 4th, 2021
- USC looks to preserve the Black Lives Matter Movement through firsthand experiences - WLTX.com - February 4th, 2021
- Bills filed to counter Black Lives Matter protests - The Herald Bulletin - February 4th, 2021
- Breonna Taylor: A beloved sister becomes a symbol of pain, an icon of hope - USA TODAY - February 4th, 2021
- How the Radical Graphic Design of the Black Panthers Influences the Movement for Black Lives - HarpersBAZAAR.com - February 4th, 2021
- Beethoven Meets Black Lives Matter in Heartbeat Opera's Breathing Free - San Francisco Classical Voice - February 4th, 2021
- Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action 2021 - School Library Journal - February 4th, 2021
- A summer of solidarity: Looking back on the Black Lives Matter marches in Japan - The Japan Times - December 22nd, 2020
- Black Lives Matter has brought a global reckoning with history. This is why the Uluru Statement is so crucial - The Conversation AU - December 22nd, 2020
- New WA Black Lives Matter Alliance agenda aims for 'liberation' - KUOW News and Information - December 22nd, 2020
- Black Lives Matter 757 organizing toy drive and distribution - WAVY.com - December 22nd, 2020
- Black Lives Matter Protests Spur Creation of Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice - Rutgers Today - December 22nd, 2020
- Asking the Clergy: Black Lives Matter movement and Kwanzaa - Newsday - December 22nd, 2020
- Black Lives Matter Backlash: The NYPD's War on Protesters Intensifies - The Indypendent - December 22nd, 2020
- Year in Review: How Black Lives Matter Inspired a New Generation of Youth Activists - Rolling Stone - December 17th, 2020
- In 2021, we must show that Black Lives Matter beyond diversity theater - Fast Company - December 17th, 2020
- Why Black Lives Matter: African American thriving for the twenty-first century - Religion News Service - December 17th, 2020
- Black Lives Matter demonstrator's rescue is this year's Most Inspiring Moment - CNN - December 17th, 2020
- Six months after mass protests began, what is the future of BLM? - The Economist - December 17th, 2020
- The City of Portland Fines a Building Owner for Oversized Black Lives Matter Sign - Willamette Week - December 17th, 2020
- Maria Casely-Hayford on Black Lives Matter: It is a cultural wake-up call such as Ive never seen before - British GQ - December 17th, 2020
- Fact check: Story about United Airlines, Black Lives Matter and a toddler is satirical - USA TODAY - December 17th, 2020
- Black Lives Matter and the Color of the Public Square - Religion & Politics - December 17th, 2020
- 2020 Best of the Beat Forsyth County Edition: Black Lives Matter - Triad City Beat - December 17th, 2020
- Organizer of Black Lives Matter mural in Florence requests that the city does not remove it - WBTW - December 17th, 2020
- What's Happened To Charlotte's Black-Owned Businesses In The Wake Of COVID-19 And BLM Movement? - WFAE - September 26th, 2020
- Youth Spotlight Column: Black lives matter in the hearts of Ipswich Students - The Local Ne.ws - September 26th, 2020
- Back the Blue, Black Lives Matter rallies meet on Clinton Street - The Ithaca Voice - September 26th, 2020
- Black Lives Matter's Goal to 'Disrupt' the Nuclear Family Fits a Marxist Aim That Goes Back a Century and a Half | Jon Miltimore - Foundation for... - September 26th, 2020
- Letter to the editor: If you don't agree that Black lives matter, you are racist - Summit Daily News - September 26th, 2020
- The sheriff's race pitting Trump against Black Lives Matter - NBC News - September 26th, 2020
- 4 Things the Liberal Media Wont Tell You About Black ... - September 4th, 2020
- You're Being Duped: Black Lives Matter Founder Admits "We ... - September 4th, 2020
- Here's What Black Lives Matter Leaders' Ultimate Goal Is - September 4th, 2020
- Black Lives Matter Just Entered Its Next Phase - The Atlantic - September 4th, 2020
- Back the Blue and Black Lives Matter protests face off in Danvers - Boston Herald - September 4th, 2020
- Utah police union accuses teachers of 'political indoctrination' by supporting Black Lives Matter movement in class - Salt Lake Tribune - September 4th, 2020
- Mayor one-ups Black Lives Matter rally with his own plans - ABC News - September 4th, 2020
- Webster Groves neighbors mailed anonymous letter asking them to remove Black Lives Matter signs - KMOV.com - September 4th, 2020
- Man arrested after carrying AR-15 near Black Lives Matter protests in Vermont - NBC News - September 4th, 2020
- How to be an ally for Black lives - Medical News Today - September 4th, 2020
- Black Lives Don't Matter to Black Lives Matter, Says Rudy Giuliani - Mother Jones - August 28th, 2020
- 'Black Lives Matter' mural to be painted along Grace Street in Downtown - Richmond Free Press - August 28th, 2020
- NHLs lack of solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests out of touch, say critics - News 1130 - August 28th, 2020
- Yellow Springs Black Lives Matter Protests On Thirteenth Consecutive Week - WYSO - August 28th, 2020
- JOIN THE DISCUSSION: Voting in the Time of COVID & Black Lives Matter (LIVE PANEL AT 2PM) - 10News - August 28th, 2020
- Organizers expecting up to 250 participants in Aug. 29 Black Lives Matter march in Pendleton - East Oregonian - August 28th, 2020
- Elected officials join Black Lives Matter protest on third night since shooting of Jacob Blake - UW Badger Herald - August 28th, 2020
- The BoF Podcast: Stella Jean Asks 'Do Black Lives Matter in Italian Fashion?' | Podcasts | BoF - The Business of Fashion - August 28th, 2020
- McCarthy addresses COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter in live Q&A - The Bakersfield Californian - August 28th, 2020
- Flight attendant suspects his ties to Black Lives Matter led to vandalism of his SUV at DIA - FOX 31 Denver - August 28th, 2020
- Black Lives Matter in Northern Ireland - The Economist - August 28th, 2020
- San Jose in a quandary over what to do with unauthorized Black Lives Matter mural - The Mercury News - August 10th, 2020
- A look at where the Black Lives Matter murals will be placed in KC - KCTV Kansas City - August 10th, 2020
- How this Llama is playing peacemaker amid Black Lives Matter protests in Portland - The Indian Express - August 10th, 2020
- What is intolerance fatigue, and how is it fueling Black Lives Matter protests? - The Conversation US - August 10th, 2020
- How did the Black Lives Matter movement get to where it is today? - News@Northeastern - August 10th, 2020
- TV tonight: dramas from the Black Lives Matter frontlines - The Guardian - August 10th, 2020
- N.Y.P.D. Besieges a Protest Leader as He Broadcasts Live - The New York Times - August 10th, 2020
- High school student forced to take off Black Lives Matter mask at graduation ceremony, family says - CNN - August 10th, 2020
- In the Wake of Protests - The New York Times - August 10th, 2020
- Dozens of police officers gathered outside the home of a BLM ... - August 9th, 2020
- Protesters clash in Minden after sheriff's statement on Black ... - August 9th, 2020