Anthony Bennett, lead pastor of Mount Aery Baptist Church, writes in this commentary that also appears in the Connecticut Post, “I have never shared nor made the calculation that one’s fitness for the office was based primarily on one’s race loyalty.”
On Thursday morning, Sept. 5, my phone was inundated with texts and messages regarding the article written by Brian Lockhart entitled “Bridgeport’s black voters divided on Moore’s candidacy.” Within this article, there were words attributed to Councilwoman Rev. Mary McBride-Lee that directly and indirectly questioned the legitimacy of Sen. Marilyn Moore’s mayoral candidacy based on her race loyalty.
The question of whether Sen. Moore was “black enough” and was “really for black people” has stirred debate in our local community. Subsequent to reading the article, I spoke to both Sen. Moore and Pastor Lee. Pastor Lee, in our brief conversation, stated that the article did not characterize what she actually meant.
Be that as it may, this election has once again brought forth the provocative questions on racial identity and sufficiency. These are not new questions, but rather these questions and insinuations have been used to discredit and minimize the legitimacy of African-American candidates in the past–in particular, in this instance, an African-American woman.
It was and has been understood in many communities of color that a black or brown person needs to be twice as good at whatever they do in order to get half of the acknowledgment and recognition of non-persons of color.
I have pastored Mount Aery Baptist Church for more than 25 years. I have been both a vocal critic of most city administrations and also have partnered with the city in efforts to improve public safety. In all these years, I have never shared nor made the calculation that one’s fitness for the office was based primarily on one’s race loyalty. It is simply absurd for anyone to directly or indirectly suggest that any candidate, particularly in the instance of Sen. Moore, would somehow or another be less qualified because she is not really for “black people” or “black enough.”
Oftentimes black community leaders and legislators are held to an unrealistic “higher litmus test” than non-people of color in meeting the diverse needs of their constituency and fellow community members. Within the Mount Aery congregation, I have people who support Sen. Moore as well as Mayor Joe Ganim. I have a congregation that is intelligent and savvy enough to make up their own minds. That’s why I have never endorsed any local candidate from the pulpit or in public.
History seeks to teach us that we will not move forward as a society using the same tropes and criteria of racial legitimacy. The black community is not a monolith, in that within our 35 percent of the population in Bridgeport, we have varied backgrounds and life experiences like any other race and community. I refuse to believe that any one black person, any one black organization, any one black pastor or legislative leader has exclusive rights of what it means to be an African-American.
I have not heard Mayor Ganim publicly questioned if he is enough for his community.
I pray that as many people who have registered to vote will vote on Tuesday, and that, as Dr. King dreamed, that we as a society will not be judged by the color of our skin but rather by the content of our character.
Some might characterize Dr. King’s statement as naïve. I prefer to work toward his aspirational goal rather than the alternative of cynicism and despair. I do believe Sen. Moore might say, in the words of that traditional Gospel song, “May the works I’ve done speak for me.”