The short history of a long quarrel

Roots: The trouble began last summer with a Morgan State University audit.

April 16, 2000|By Perspective editor Mike Adams

Baltimore Sens. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, Clarence W. Blount and Nathaniel J. McFadden led the campaign that resulted in the defeat of Del. Howard P. Rawlings' racial profiling bill.

The battle grew out of a dispute between Rawlings, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and other black legislators over Morgan State University.

Last summer, Rawlings initiated a performance audit of Morgan. The examination was needed, he said, to ensure that state funds were being spent effectively at a time when Morgan was seeking more autonomy.

Blount and other legislators moved quickly to halt the audit, saying it was an insult to the state's largest historically black institution.

Rawlings, like his two biggest Senate critics -- McFadden and Blount -- graduated from Morgan. Rawlings and Blount have dormitories named after them to recognize their legislative accomplishments and support for Morgan, although Rawlings' detractors like to point out that the building named after Blount is three times the size of the dorm named after Rawlings.

Mitchell criticized Rawlings' racial profiling bill, saying it was unnecessary to force police agencies to keep records of their traffic stops, as African-American leaders across the nation have been urging in an effort to address alleged racism. McFadden said he wanted a bill requiring police to keep records of traffic stops -- as long as Rawlings' name wasn't on it.

Some observers suggest that the unhappiness with Rawlings is due in part to jealousy of his stature and style.

Blount, who often preaches harmony to his fellow senators, predicted continuing problems for Rawlings if he keeps asserting himself on issues such as Morgan.

"Unfortunately, we have to air our dirty laundry with a gentleman [Rawlings] who thinks he is the emperor of the African-American community for the entire state of Maryland, the city of Baltimore, Prince George's County and anywhere there are more than two African-American senators assembled," McFadden told a Sun reporter as the feud raged.

"It's alleged that the chairman of the Appropriations Committee runs roughshod in the House of Delegates. The African-American senators want to make it clear that his power does not extend to this chamber."

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