Rep. Charles B. Rangel was convicted Nov. 16 by a House ethics panel of 12 of the 13 ethics violations he faced. While ethics experts suggest that he will likely be issued a letter of reprimand or a formal censure, rather than being expelled, the trial and conviction cast a shadow over someone the Christian Science Monitor calls “one of the most legendary Black politicians in U.S. history and one whose venerable career contributed to the success of generations of Black politicians.” (Aug. 1)
Most importantly, the attack on Rangel amounts to an attack on the whole Black community through the targeting of an elected representative. It occurs at a time of growing crisis for all workers, a crisis even greater for the oppressed.
Why go after Rangel? Rangel has served as the chair of the oldest and possibly most powerful committee in the House — the Ways and Means Committee — since 2007. According to Rangel’s congressional website, “As a senior member of the committee and as the vice chairman for the Joint Committee on Taxation, he continues to wield influence over tax revenue legislation and oversight authority over the major issues of the day — economic policy, international trade, welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and health care.”
At a time when the government is trying to slash services for the poor left and right, it makes perfect sense that they would go after Rangel — a Black man, representing a Black community, who presides over the committee that handles the money. It’s a wonder the racist politicians in Congress didn’t do it sooner.
The right wing will argue that because three new Black Republicans will be taking seats in the new Congress, there is now greater Black representation. However, in the House of Representatives the amount of seniority a representative has directly influences how much power and influence that representative can wield. Rangel has been a congressional representative for 40 years, since 1970. These new representatives will be first timers with little power and probably right-wing politics. And while Rangel’s politics have been contradictory at times, his almost unanimous re-election a few weeks ago shows that he has the support of the people of his Harlem district.
Rangel’s special role is his seniority and leadership in the House, but he’s not the only target of institutional racism. All seven of the lawmakers under full-scale investigation by the House are African-American; not one is white. Meanwhile, the only Black senator in the country, Roland Burris, is under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.
This blatant discrimination must be fought. Workers World defends the right of the Black community to choose its own representatives, and the right of those politicians to serve free of racist harassment.
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