It's a black-and-white thing. Who understands it?


May 17, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

In the match-up between Anthony Brown and Stuart Simms, the question isn't which aspiring lieutenant governor is the better man. In some quarters, the question is: Who is the blacker man? Put another way, which of these two Harvard-educated lawyers has more street cred?

No less an authority than Alan Walden, conservative white guy, weighed in on the topic this week, in a commentary headlined: "Political Pigmentation."

The subhead: "Says Duncan to O'Malley, `My candidate is blacker than yours.'"

(Doug Duncan's campaign, by the way, would like you to know that he never said any such thing. Martin O'Malley's camp declined to comment.)

"O'Malley ... made much of the fact that Delegate Anthony Brown is an African-American even though neither of Brown's parents came from Africa and one of them is a European-American: in other words white," Walden wrote. "And now, as most of you know, Douglas Duncan has chosen former Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart Syms [sic] as his candidate for lieutenant governor, thereby choosing a candidate who's more black than Brown. (Pun intended.)"

Let's just pause here a minute to chuckle over that clever pun, not to mention the misspelling of Simms, before we move on to the serious issue at hand: Is the inverse to the old "one-drop rule," long used by racists in the business of defining who was white and who wasn't, at work in black politics? Does more than a little white blood make a politician non-black?

Simms is the son of a black schoolteacher and steel worker, whose forebears have been in Maryland for generations. Brown is the son of immigrants: a white Swiss homemaker and doctor of African descent, who was born in Cuba and raised in Jamaica. Brown is American. His ancestry is, in part, African. He looks like a light-skinned black and calls himself African American. Does anybody besides Alan Walden think his relative blackness is a campaign issue?

Well, as it turns out, yes.

"Since black running mates are apparently the new norm, especially in a state where blacks comprise upwards of 35 percent of the population, the question has to be asked: Who is the blackest?" Doni Glover wrote recently on his Web site,

In the article, Glover notes that Simms is "a visibly black man of darker hue." But he dismissed the skin-tone issue as "aesthetics" in an interview yesterday. Glover said the real question is whether Brown, as the son of a doctor, would push the "Black Agenda" -- minority contracting, urban schools, ex-offender services -- as vigorously as the son of a steel worker.

"If Stu Simms came out of Harlem Park, you can bet your bottom dollar that he either chased somebody home or was chased home at some point," said Glover, who discussed the issue recently on WEAA radio. "It's a fight for survival. And I guess people can question whether Anthony can at least relate to those same sets of experiences."

Does it really advance that Black Agenda to cast those questions in terms of a melanin deficiency? Maybe not, Glover said.

"A white guy doesn't have to prove he's white," he said. "But a black guy has to prove that he's palatable to whites, blend into the mainstream community, but also has some sort of connection to his own community. It's really an unfair standard."

Connect the dots

Three nurses who longed to go to trapeze school in Baltimore will get their wish granted by Ellen DeGeneres, who makes viewers' "crazy dreams" come true on her show. All it took was a letter from one of them, who wrote, "If one of us gets hurt, we're all nurses, and I think it would work out." ... Shareese DeLeaver, spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Ehrlich, has left that job to join his campaign staff. "It has been a learning experience working with all of you and my pleasure working with `most' of you," she wrote in an e-mail to reporters. ... Ted Koppel joked about the hair thing in his commencement address Saturday at St. Mary's College of Maryland. "There are a few among you who are thinking, `I don't care what anybody says. He's wearing a rug,'" he said, according to the college's P.R. office. "Actually, they've paid me enough over the years that if I had to wear one I could afford one better looking than this." ... The Arbutus Roundtable-in-Exile convened at the Beltway Motel Restaurant the other day. Special guest was Glenn Ivey, Prince George's County state's attorney, who repeated that he would not run for attorney general. There was talk about who would. How about John Sarbanes? That suggestion came from Paul Hollinger. His wife, state Sen. Paula Hollinger, is running for Maryland's 3rd District congressional seat. So is Sarbanes. ... The Maryland's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives hosts a reception for Kimmie Meissner tonight the U.S. Capitol.

Banner day

A banner unfurled yesterday at Baltimore's Central Booking and Intake Center gives bad guys a heads up about Baltimore Exile, the federal, state and city effort to deter gun crimes. U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein stopped by for the occasion. It's one of two new banners in the area, both visible from I-83. The other reads: "Scores Baltimore Now Open."

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