By Barney Blakeney
They’re sometimes described as backstabbers, traitors or sellouts – Blacks who support white candidates over Black candidates vying for the same positions. As the political season intensifies, lines are being drawn and supporters are choosing sides. For many, choosing sides is more complicated than merely aligning with those of like interests. Some Black folks insist that all Black folks only support Black candidates. Such loyalty is not limited to race or ethnicity, but can extend to political party and professional allegiances. Still, increasingly more people are daring to cross those invisible lines in the sand.
Two local primary election races stirring up those waters are the Democratic primaries for Charleston County Register of Deeds and Charleston County Probate Court Judge. In each race a white candidate faces a Black candidate. And some Blacks who publicly are supporting the white candidates in those races are getting some negative feedback.
In a characteristic mass mail-out, former Charleston Sen. Robert Ford recently implied the municipal administration in Charleston in collusion with the offices of the Register of Deeds and Probate Court systematically have dispossessed Black landowners and diminished Black political power. “Even with this kind of destruction to the Black community, we still have educated Black elected officials and some Black preachers who still want us to vote for white candidates when well qualified Black candidates are in the race for these positions,” Ford said.
While many agree the diminishing of Black landownership and political clout has been manipulated, choices about supporting political candidates aren’t as simple as the difference between black and white, some others contend.
Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan said voters always should support the candidates they feel will do the best job for the people. “You want someone in office who will serve the people,” he said. “Our party is strongest when we have candidates who are qualified and can excite voters.”
Charleston Branch NAACP President and former League of Women Voters board member Dot Scott was more poignant. “I have no problem with Blacks who support white candidates,” she said. “We should look at candidates who have a record (of service) when it applies and when it doesn’t, weigh each candidate’s qualifications.
“We have to move beyond race-based voting,” Scott said. “We can no longer afford to elect Black people just because they’re Black.”