In a committee hearing yesterday, State Senator Vicki Marble found herself on the wrong end of a Rep. Rhonda Fields race-baiting attack. Marble – in a committee hearing devoted to race- and ethnicity-based sources of and effects of poverty – had the temerity to suggest that there might be some cultural and dietary contributors to poverty in certain groups. In reality, this isn’t even a particularly controversial statement. It was said without malice, and African American State Rep. Tony Exum, who spoke immediately after Marble, apparently didn’t even react. It was only Fields who went nuts, supposedly taking offense, attacking Marble, posing as a victim of racism – in a meeting devoted to racial disparities in poverty rates.
Fields is the one who deserves to be condemned here. Not because she’s effectively played the ever-popular race card for partisan political reasons, but because she’s hurting the very people whom we all agree need help the most, while pretending to defend and support them.
Let’s be clear – it is a dangerous and socially destabilizing situation when a group of people believes that it’s denied participation in the fruits of the American dream because of their race. It is fundamentally unfair and indecent to the extent that it turns out to be true. There is every reason for the state government to take an interest in the welfare of its citizens, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. And there is every reason for a state to try to determine the extent to which actual, real, discrimination exists.
Which is why Rep. Fields’s outburst is so reprehensible. Instead of identifying areas where Blacks and Hispanics might be able to take their destiny into their own hands, she actively encourages them to think of themselves as victims, nurse grievances, and tend to resentments. Instead of looking for actual sources of discrimination, she invents reasons for outrage. Instead of finding ways that people can lift themselves off the Safety Net, she is more interested in keeping them enmeshed in it.
In Detroit, in spectacular fashion, we’ve seen where this leads.
Rep. Fields has no business serving on such a committee.
And anyone who truly cares about the welfare of poor African Americans and Hispanics should stand up and say so.