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Jonetta Rose Barras: Bonds sings the same old song

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Local,DC,Jonetta Rose Barras

If there were doubts about whether Anita Bonds deserves to retain her at-large seat on the D.C. Council, she ably put them to rest this week. She reached back for an ancient, predictable and discredited political organizing tool: race.

While participating in a candidates' forum on WAMU radio, Bonds suggested that African-Americans in the District vote for her because she is African-American: "People want to have their leadership reflect who they are," she said. "I am a proud African-American, black candidate, and I am proud of having that as my issue."

Spoken like a true Marion Barry acolyte. There is little light between her and the man she helped to bring into political prominence during the 1970s, and who has remained a key political ally.

Initially, Bonds was chasing women, arguing there were not enough of them holding elected office. Now, she has abandoned that approach and has begun shamelessly playing the race card.

While many people are working to build coalitions across race, class and gender boundaries, Bonds, chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, is trying to reconstruct barriers. Her election strategy mimics that used by Southern segregationists to keep themselves in office during the Jim Crow era.

Like those petty politicians, Bonds lacks any cogent, visionary agenda for the District. Thus, during these final days leading up to the April 23 special election, she has decided to traffic in fear.

Bonds is an unrehabilitated racialist. She does not deserve a seat in the legislature. She and her crew are desperate to keep their place at the trough. Consequently, they continue to perpetuate the myth that somehow whites of this city, most of whom are way left of center, are racing to discriminate against blacks and to oppress the city's poor.

None of this is shocking, really.

Bonds demonstrated questionable integrity when she used her position as the state committee chair to push through her temporary appointment to the council. That process proceeded, although the terms for 48 of the 82 members of the executive committee had expired.

Bonds is all about Bonds -- not the future of this city.

Here are two questions to ask: Has black political dominance made any difference in the quality of city's public schools? Was it central to creating safe streets in African-American communities?

The answer to those questions and recent history, which I need not repeat here, should compel voters to reflect on the imprudence of selecting leaders based primarily on the color of their skin.

The District has matured into a wonderfully diverse municipality. Undoubtedly there is room for further growth. But the city isn't a haven for a bunch of white racists. That's for sure.

A colleague recently predicted racial politics would remain a part of the city's future. I hope he's wrong. I hope most voters want what I want: strong, honest leaders dedicated to serving all residents -- regardless of race and class.

That's what the District deserves -- not the politics Bonds peddles.

Jonetta Rose Barras can be reached at jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com.

Jonetta Rose Barras' column appears on Tuesday and Friday. She can be reached at jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com.

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