A few years back at a party, I found myself in conversation with a young African-American attorney who'd just moved to Memphis from Atlanta. She was charming, chatty, and direct. At one point, I asked her, "What's the biggest difference between Memphis and Atlanta?"
The young woman shook her head and said, "In Atlanta, the black political leaders are lawyers and professionals. Here in Memphis, it's still old school — funeral directors and preachers control everything. It drives me crazy."
Henri Brooks isn't a funeral director or a preacher, but she's old school, unable to jettison the angry, race-based politics she grew up with. But there's plenty of race-based hate to go around, these days. Thinly veiled racial attacks (often disguised as "humor") on President Obama and the First Lady are a daily occurrence — just check the internet. And don't kid yourself into thinking that the GOP/Tea Party furor over immigration across our Southern border doesn't also carry a racial element.
We as a society are nowhere near being "post-racial." Our polarization on such issues as race, politics, guns, immigration, schools, gay rights, religion, etc. has never been more pronounced, at least not in my lifetime.
Brooks' public disintegration in recent weeks, culminating with Tuesday's revelation that she likely doesn't live in the district she represents, has only stoked the race-baiters, who vent enough ugly, personal remarks on local news websites to keep comment monitors busy night and day. (For some reason, these good citizens never seem nearly as outraged about the law-breaking shenanigans of caucasian politicians such as Representative Curry Todd or former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis.)
But Brooks brought this on herself. Yes, her persistence in spotlighting the injustices at Juvenile Court was a good thing. But the unseemly dressing down of an Hispanic-American citizen in commission chambers, the stupid encounter in a Methodist Hospital parking lot that led to assault charges, and the latest revelation about her possible out-of-district residence make it clear she is no longer fit to hold public office.
Mayor AC Wharton, whose career is untainted by any such imbroglios, and who by all accounts has plans to run for reelection, would be wise to distance himself from Brooks. Unfortunately, his wife, Ruby Wharton, a strong personality in her own right, is Brooks' campaign manager. It has probably made for some interesting dinner conversation at the Wharton home. But AC should put his foot down on this one.
The bottom line? We need to rid ourselves of prideful, stupid, drunk, addicted, incompetent, gun-sucking, crooked, racist public servants. And any combination thereof. Did I mention stupid? State legislature, I'm talking to you.
You know who they are. So do I. Let's get rid of them, starting August 7th.