GA Rep. McKinney issued a pale and insincere apology—which bordered on sarcasm—on the House floor, the arrogant tenor of which missed three key points: First: violence is never okay. It’s just not. The minute Rep. McKinney struck the officer, she was in the wrong, period. Second: McKinney’s vendetta fairly polarized congress, harming important legislation while battle lines were drawn. Third: claims of racial bias grounded in transparent self-interest only make the struggle of achieving actual social justice that much harder. I wouldn’t be so offended by the congresswoman’s carnival sideshow if two little boys hadn’t been lynched right in front of us—with nobody, apparently, from Black leadership giving a damn.
A person I deeply admired from the moment she stepped onto the
national stage as U.S. Congresswoman from Georgia’s 4th
District. Articulate, focused, laser-sharp, quick witted, yet
still down-home and practical, Cynthia McKinney was a thorn in
the side of Bush-era milquetoast Democrats who routinely
rolled over and played dead for the likes of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Dennis Hastert. She was either the first or one of
the first national politicians out front on the Iraq issue:
McKinney called it like she saw it and her words proved prophetic
(see next page sidebar). A populist icon of a magnitude of
today’s Elizabeth Warren, McKinney’s trajectory was to the
stars, hampered only by her skin color (whether anyone wants to
admit it or not), and her penchant for getting into people’s
faces—important people, very powerful people. She seemed
fearless, the champion of Joe Lunchbox—white, black or brown.
I’m not embarrassed to say I loved this woman. She amazed and
delighted me at every turn. I regret my deep admiration for her
and gratitude for her service to, inarguably the betterment of
the United States, was omitted from my scathing 2007 essay which
I was very, very angry not so much about McKinney and the disingenuous carnival sideshow she created which I believed (and still believe) was well beneath her dignity, but about the gross inequity of public concern over two little boys who’d gone missing in Milwaukee, and how McKinney’s antics overshadowed what little media attention might have been available to them. It goes without saying, had these been two little blonde girls gone missing eight days, the media saturation would have been complete; it would have been all anyone could see or hear whenever they went near a television. But, as I point out in my rant, mainstream media (most especially in previous years) allots only a set amount of time for “black” news. In other words, so long as McKinney’s wholly ridiculous circus was running before network cameras, local stories like this business about two missing boys would be squeezed out of the news budget and not make it on-air.
This is precisely what happened: two little boys strangely missing, a perfunctory search for them by local officials, and zero national heat brought to bear mainly, I believe, because all the “black news” airtime was being soaked up by a patently ridiculous attempt by Rep. McKinney to avoid simply apologizing for bad behavior.
It would be a stretch to claim this nonsense cost McKinney her seat; she’d certainly made more than enough enemies on Capitol Hill to cause that, but her vanity and pride hurt her most with her friends; with those of us deeply entrenched in McKinney’s camp. “I made a mistake, I sincerely apologize,” and it would have been a one-day story. Instead, it dragged on for day after agonizing day, as two mothers grieved over missing boys whose plight could not even be heard above the McKinney circus.
Worse, McKinney herself, on defense and completely self-absorbed, never mentioned the missing boys. High atop her national platform, with all eyes and cameras on her for day after stupid, infantile day of her foolishness, she herself could have brought national attention to those missing children. She was either unaware they were missing (self-absorbed, poorly informed, staff mismanaged) or she just didn’t give a damn: it was all about her.
The woman I so admired and, yeah, okay, I’ll say it, loved, could have turned the circus on its ear by not hiding behind false claims of racial profiling and instead galvanize the forces moving against her into a search for two missing black children America could care less about. That was her big opportunity. Even if she didn’t care that the boys were missing, had she used her sublime political skill to take all of that noise and re-aim it at Milwaukee, I believe McKinney would likely be a senator by now, and a powerful one at that.
Instead, she behaved like a child herself. The boys remained lost, and McKinney dealt herself a fatal political blow from which her reputation never recovered. It was a tragedy in every sense of the word, most certainly for McKinney herself whose inestimable political prowess bowed before her ego. Had I been staffing the Congresswoman, I’d certainly have provided better advice than she apparently received.