Bankole Thompson: With fewer Black legislators, Democrats in Lansing must work to deliver
Democrats took over the state Legislature for the first time in decades through victories in the midterm elections. That will allow them to push through with their policy prescriptions with virtually no opposition.
But their wins stem from a very disgraceful reality: White liberals in the state have been reluctant to openly discuss the wider implications of the last redistricting process, which perhaps resulted in the smallest margin of Black representation in Lansing in decades.
Take, for example, the state's new 8th Senate district in southeast Michigan where Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak defeated Detroit's Marshall Bullock, chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus.
Prior to redistricting, Michigan boasted some 17 majority-minority districts, but the new maps have left the state with only five majority-minority districts.
In essence, Democrats took the Legislature at a time when historically Black legislative representation is in decline. That is nothing to be proud of. The more Black voices there are, the more chances there are for our issues to be tabled and addressed.
That is why Democrats must deliver for Detroit and other urban areas in the next legislative season. The party should feel obligated to lay out a plan to deal with the crisis of inequality majority Black cities across the state are facing.
Much is being made of Rep. Joe Tate becoming the first Black House Speaker, but focusing on the symbolism of his appointment rather than the substance of his legislative priorities — whether they will help lift the state out of the doldrums of economic squalor — is a mistake.
After all, Tate does not appear to be an outspoken member of the Legislature. He has not been at the forefront of the policy battles that would decide the fate of Benton Harbor, Flint and Detroit, his hometown.
The jury is still out on whether Tate has what it takes to navigate the ship in Lansing.
State Rep. Sarah Anthony, another African American, has just been named chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. As head of the budget committee, Anthony would wield influence on what priorities are funded.
It remains to be seen whether Anthony will focus on the economic lifelines that urban cities need, or if she will just go along with the status quo.
Too often, the Democratic model of engagement with urban communities is through crime prevention projects, not employment opportunities programs. Both Democrats and Republicans compete on who can offer the toughest talk on crime.
But people need jobs and opportunities to put food on the table. They need quality career-training programs to prepare young Black people for meaningful employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.
History is beckoning Democrats in Lansing to deliver for their most loyal base.
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which broadcasts at 11 a.m. weekdays on 910AM and “Sunday Nation,” on Sundays at 1 p.m. on MyTV38 WADL-Detroit.