Stokes was right to applaud blacks for cross-racial...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 22, 1999

Stokes was right to applaud blacks for cross-racial voting

During his concession speech on Election Day (Sept. 14), Carl Stokes said he was proud of Baltimore's African-American community, because so many of its members had crossed racial lines and voted for Martin O'Malley.

I've thought a great deal about Mr. Stokes' comments. They were generous, because Mr. Stokes might have won, if about 35 percent of African-Americans hadn't voted for a white candidate.

They were also perceptive. It makes sense for black Baltimoreans to vote for a qualified black candidate instead of a qualified white candidate.

After all, it has only been in the past few decades that black Americans have been able to vote for black candidates. Given the bitter struggle to elect black leaders, and the pride that must have resulted from success in it, I can understand why black Baltimoreans might see it as a backward step to elect a white mayor.

And, in a city where most major powerbrokers are still white, it makes sense that the black community would feel safer with someone who represents its interests.

Yet, despite those realities, and despite the fact that African-Americans are well aware of the tenuousness of many whites' commitment to an anti-racist society, thousands of Baltimore's African-Americans decided to vote for a white person they thought could best lead the city.

That was an extraordinary statement, and Mr. Stokes knew it.

But it's important to consider that far fewer whites crossed racial lines to vote for Mr. Stokes, a strong black candidate who had won major endorsements.

It seems that black Baltimoreans, who have far better reasons to vote for people of their own race than do whites, were more able to get past race than their white counterparts.

Why is that?

Stan Markowitz, Baltimore

Voting for whites subverts blacks' political influence

I am heartbroken that so many black voters agreed with white voters on the need to return the top city government position to a white man.

The victor in the city's Democratic mayoral primary was opportunistic in betraying City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III and in undermining what should be our black consensus for self-governance. It's sad that blacks supported Martin O'Malley's selfish ambition.

I'm beginning to doubt seriously that voting can bring about black freedom and equality.

The suspicion that whites at the state level are more likely to finance the city needs if the mayor is white is a troubling surrender to white supremacy.

Watching black populations assist the white minority to regain the helm of one city government after another is giving me nothing but grief.

Achieving our voting rights is beginning to appear to be a hollow victory.

Orisha Kammefa, Baltimore

It's the press, not the public, that's preoccupied by race

I would like an explanation of the assumption in The Sun's article "In the voting booth, color took back seat" (Sept. 15) that when black people vote for the best candidate they are rising above racial politics, but when white people do the same thing, they are "exhibiting strong solidarity with the white candidate."

The Sun seriously underestimates the ability of Baltimoreans to think for themselves.

Regardless of race, Martin O'Malley was the only candidate whose character and campaign spoke for themselves.

The citizens of this city rose to the occasion -- making the right choice, despite the press harping on the candidates' racial heritages.

The knee-jerk assignment of positive motives to one group, and negative motives to another, does nothing to contribute to what this city so plainly craves: less emphasis on color and more on improving the quality of our lives.

Amanda Scheps, Baltimore

I recall Barry Rascovar's column earlier this summer, in which he discounted Martin O'Malley's bid for the Democratic nomination for mayor because Mr. O'Malley is white ("Electing a white mayor not out of the question," Opinion Commentary, June 27).

For this, Mr. Rascovar says he stands corrected ("O'Malley has mandate to be bold," Opinion Commentary, Sept. 19).

Mr. Rascovar goes on to say that the racial issue was "more of a fixation for politicians than for voters."

I think he needs to be corrected again. It appears it was the media, more than anyone else, who fixated on the candidates' race.

Jane L. Taeger, Baltimore

Gun laws won't stop mentally ill shooters

One could conclude from The Sun's editorial "Fatal omission," (Sept. 17) that Richard Wayne Spicknall's children would be alive but for a clerical error in the Howard County database.

Applying this reasoning, one could argue that gun laws will cure mental illness.

Charles L. Layton, Easton

Up-to-date court records may help prevent shootings

It's not often that our association agrees with The Sun. However, the editorial "Fatal omission" (Sept. 17) was right on target. Inaccurate court records are the reason some ineligible people get firearms.

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