Yesterday, we talked to Alvin Greene, a candidate for Senate from the state of South Carolina. Between the questions asked by Roland and Sybil, it was clear that they were not with this brother at all. They fired off a barrage of really tough questions, like “Where did you get the money to run?” “Where is your campaign office headquartered?” And “Are you guilty of being a sex felon?”
Brother Alvin got stumped by most of those questions, and he quickly became a joke to a lot of the listeners. And I have a problem with that.
I admit that in the beginning, when I first heard about Alvin Greene, I was suspicious that he was put up to running by the Republicans – and it could still be true. But until I’m convinced of it, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. If I don’t, who will? Here’s a black man who could be on the up-and-up. And if he is, what’s wrong with him running for the Senate?
Aren’t we the ones who complain about people buying their way into office? How offices like U.S. Senator are held by an elite club made of mostly of very rich, very white men? So here’s an average, everyday guy – who is not a political insider – who was able to get enough votes to be placed on the ballot. He has more in common with the average voter than most of us, and based on his platform – justice, jobs and education – he’s qualified. He’s got a case, so he needs justice and will fight for it; he’s out of work, so he will try to improve the unemployment situation in S.C.; and he’s no stranger to education – he’s a graduate from the University of South Carolina where he majored in political science. Even though he wasn’t the strongest speaker I’ve ever heard, a college degree from a major university is nothing to scoff at.
There have been people who’ve done far more with far less in the political arena; the difference is, they usually aren’t black people. The status quo has been for black people to have to be overqualified for high -profile positions in corporate America and national American politics as well. Being average is not an option at all.
Look at President Obama. Even with all of his credentials, he regularly had to explain what made him qualified to run this country. He had everything that Alvin Greene didn’t, and he still had a tough time — not just with critics concerned about his political views, but with people, black and white, who asked if he was ready to be president even though he was a young, brilliant, Harvard Law-educated U.S. senator. Now that he has set the bar so high, will every black politician be expected to have a similar pedigree? And if so, what does that mean for the rest of the more ordinary African-American politicians or just people with good ideas who have aspirations of holding office? If Alvin Greene is a joke, he’ll show his hand soon enough. And that will be done.
My support is not necessarily for Alvin Greene the man, but for Alvin Greene the principle – that any man or woman with a solid platform, in spite of his or her bank account, can run for office and win. If Alvin Greene is for real, what he needs is a good campaign manager, a good speechwriter, a good fundraiser and a good lawyer. We don’t know what he could actually offer this country if given a chance.
When we immediately clown the Alvin Greenes of the world, we are sending a dangerous message, and I don’t want to be a part of that. So, even though I can’t vote for him, I’m with him. I jumped out there and blindly supported candidate Obama before he became a rock star, and I’m doing the same for Alvin Greene. I would even put one of his bumper stickers on my car – if only he had one.
In the meantime, I’m going to re-watch Eddie Murphy’s movie, “The Distinguished Gentleman,” and I suggest that Alvin Greene do the same. Go Greene!