By refusing to resign, Kevin de León gives anti-Blackness a pass on the national stage. So says New York Times columnist Ross Douthat in the wake of the recent resignation of New York’s first Mexican-American, Comptroller Ben Cardin. While Douthat has every right to criticize de León and his actions, he did not do so in the spirit of full disclosure, or in the spirit of solidarity with de León’s black and brown constituents who are being punished for defending an institution of power and privilege that they are often denied, in the name of Black/Brown/Non-White solidarity. When Douthat writes about de León, he writes as both a White person and a Black person, and he writes as something of a “fellow traveler.” This is a common, but flawed, strategy in the mainstream Left — one that Douthat adopts for himself.
I agree with Douthat’s criticism of de León’s actions. He deserves it. And in his critique, he is clearly right. However, I do not think he is right when he uses his White identity to criticize the black/brown people who voted for de León and who have been marginalized and excluded by de León’s leadership. Douthat never identifies this segment of society as the same segment of society that the Left uses its privileges to empower — and then ignores their struggles. Instead, he seems to operate in a different space altogether. When he writes about de León’s resigning, he tries to give the black/brown folks a pass. But his argument can only hold water if there were never any marginalized people in the first place, and if the only way they can vote is by voting for the dominant Left, which is to say, the only way they can vote is through the “pass” of a white person. The only issue is whether he identifies as White.
The issue of identity is critical in the Black Left. The Black Left should have a vision for itself that includes Black people and Black liberation struggles with Black people, but also other groups of people who are marginalized by those Black people, who lack the privilege or power to vote as equals. I do