By: Guest Blogger AJ Clyburn

Recently an event was created on Facebook called “Forum on the Future of the Democratic Party.” The forum is being hosted by the former President of the Spartanburg NAACP and democratic candidate for House District 31 Monier Abusaft.

Abusaft, a Spartanburg attorney, is among four candidates that are all campaigning to replace Representative Harold Mitchell (D) who stepped down earlier this summer stating health issues as the reason for his departure from the state legislature.

As a blogger who writes for a publication that is constantly advocating for diversity and inclusion and makes speaking out against racism and equality par for the course, it is a strange twist of fate that I find myself calling an African-American activist to the carpet for a lack of diversity.  However, the sword of equality has a double edged blade and it should be equally wielded against all who are guilty of uniformity and exclusion.  

Why this forum is a problem  

The flyer created on Facebook has the pictures of three African-American males. Spartanburg County Councilman Michael Brown, former SC State Representative Bakari Sellers, and Abusaft himself. The flyer reads “Forum on the future of the Democratic Party.” What makes this flyer particularly off-putting is that there are no women on the panel and no non-minorities. Strange, given the racial makeup of Spartanburg County and the South Carolina Democratic Party.

The makeup of this panel flies in the face of the Democratic Party’s big tent philosophy. To add insult to injury, Michael Brown is the current president of the Spartanburg NAACP and Abusaft is a former president. The NAACP is one of the best examples in this country of what an organization can accomplish when it builds multiracial and multiethnic coalitions in the fight to end racism and champion diversity and inclusion. The fact that the power of diversity has been lost on these two individuals is disheartening. As an elected official, I would assume Brown has individuals who voted for him that are women and non-minorities. To be apart of a public discussion that does not include insight from these individuals on the panel is contrary to everything that aided in his ability to be elected to public office.

What if the forum were “The Future of African Americans in the Democratic Party”

Even if the forum topic was specifically discussing the future of African-Americans in the Democratic Party, the failure to include black women would be offensive and chauvinistic. Especially when you consider that Black women are among the most loyal demographic within the democratic party.

Black women have the highest national voting rate and they are the force that drives their families’ voting behavior.  Abusaft, by all evidence, is a sharp and bright young man, so I’m pretty sure he knows the important role black women play in democratic politics. Also, given the fact that his campaign manager is former democratic representative, Brenda Lee, the first black woman from Spartanburg elected to the state Legislature, I would assume he would be more conscious of what it says to the community, better yet what it says to District 31 voters, that he chose to exclude women from his panel. Perhaps he feels he doesn’t need women voters to win the election.  

An all women’s panel to discuss the role of women in politics

However, I honestly believe there needs to be an all women’s panel put together to discuss what can be done to get more women involved in South Carolina politics. Subsequently, there was a recent article published in the Free Times entitled When It Comes to Women in Office, South Carolina Scores a D and another article relating to this very topic was published in the Huffington Post a few weeks later entitled Women In Congress Still Proud To Be There, Despite The BS They Face. These two articles sum up an eerie, yet familiar unspoken bias toward women in leadership roles.

Abusaft’s forum represents the kind of outdated, backwoods thinking that needs to be dispelled and rebuked by democratic leadership on the local and national level.

No Response from Democratic Leadership  

As an individual who comes from a proud democratic family, I have heard lots of talking offline and whispers in democratic circles about how bad of an idea this forum is, but, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been anyone with the courage to speak openly to Abusaft about this forum, (forgive me if there are members of the democratic leadership who have spoken with him about this matter.)

 

What is also mind-boggling is that this forum has been sanctioned by the Spartanburg Democratic Party if not officially then at least unofficially. Among the list of people who say they are going to the event is Shelly Roehrs, Chairwoman of the Spartanburg Democratic Party, who just happens to be a white woman, another key demographic of the Democratic Party which makes up the backbone of the party across the country and whom Abusaft apparently feels has nothing worthy of adding to the conversation when it comes to the future of the party because he didn’t see fit to add them to his panel.

Although Roehrs’ public acknowledgment that she will be attending the event isn’t an official endorsement by the county party, however, her presence at the event would send an unintentional message to all those secretly asking the question, is she favoring one candidate over the other?  However, the more important question to me is, why hasn’t she spoken out against the event when many black and white residents have expressed the lack of diversity sends the wrong message.

If You think I’m being overly sensitive, consider this

In the movie “A Time to Kill” based on the book by John Grisham and starring Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey delivers an iconic line during his closing argument to an all white jury in a small, segregated Southern town, who is deliberating the fate of Carl Lee Hailey played by Jackson who is on trial for gunning down two bigoted white men as revenge for the brutal rape of his daughter.  

McConaughey tells the jury to close their eyes and tells them to imagine the horrific things done to Jackson’s character’s daughter. And just when some members of the jury are almost in tears he says the punchline “Now imagine, she’s white?”  

So I will pose that same question to you. Imagine you log onto your Facebook account and open an invite to attend, “Forum on the Future of the Democratic Party.”  Now imagine it’s three old white guys on the flyer!

You know what the reaction of the community would be. The rebuke would come from all demographics of the community and it would be swift.

I think Abusaft deserves the same rebuke but it has not yet come because he’s taking advantage of the same “Timid Leadership” he rails about in his stump speeches.  

AJ Clyburn
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