Congresswoman Corrine Brown deserves our compassion. It’s arguable that some of the shitstorm raining down upon her is of her own making, long coming political fallout from years of scandals, bizarre behavior, questionable ethics and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for power and, possibly, for money. Even so, she deserves compassion and respect befitting the office to which she serves.
It’s easy to laugh when the congresswoman inexplicably gives a shout out to the Florida Gators on the congressional floor, or when she goes ballistic at a buffet and starts screaming about conspiracies, threatening to call police on the media and openly begging people to “send money,” arguably the reason she’s in such a tight spot in the first place, for if wasn’t for her involvement in the One Door for Education sham charity, she probably wouldn’t be so frazzled. Before you give in to the giggles, ask yourself why people find it so easy to laugh at Corrine Brown. Then consider the fact that our culture has a history of demonizing, caricaturizing and mocking African-Americans.
Sure, Brown is brash and, obviously, she’s a character prone to curious behavior and unique fashion choices. But when she says evil forces are conspiring against her, when she says that politics is far from color-blind, she is not wrong.
Think back to last summer when recordings were released of state Rep. Janet Adkins (R-District 11) saying that the key to defeating Brown was cramming her district full of prisons so that the total number of citizens counted for purposes of creating a district likely to elect a minority would effectively be far lower than the actual number of voters. That’s how determined Adkins and her ilk are to get rid of the powerful, enigmatic, African-American congresswoman: They’d rather hijack our democracy than let her keep the seat she has held for more than two decades. They’d rather sacrifice every bit of pork her Washington connections ship on down to her district, which overlaps at least some of the North Florida Republican caucus Adkins spoke to that day, than let her go quietly — well, probably not quietly — into retirement at the end of her career.
Other than the power she wields, Corrine Brown is actually good for Republicans. Not only is she an easy target for them to mock, by creating a district such as hers that is likely to elect a minority, the surrounding districts are drained of Democrats in a way that is sometimes referred to as “bleaching.” Thus her congressional seat makes it more likely that the Ander Crenshaws of the state can handily win elections. It also bears mention that Corrine Brown is well-known for insisting on such an extreme level of control over Democratic candidates anywhere near her district that she is far, far from universally liked by locals in her own party who perceive, rather accurately, that she hurts as least as many Democrats as she helps, maybe more.
So why would any Republican want to take her down? If anyone should want Corrine Brown to lose her seat, it should be the Alvin Browns and the Kimberly Daniels of the region, not the Janet Adkins. And yet both Brown and Daniels stand by her, even now.
Corrine Brown might not be the most admirable member of Congress; she certainly doesn’t take the lead on much legislation. And she may not be cut from the same cloth as Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
What Corrine Brown is, you see, is a liberal black woman who has held a congressional seat for more than two decades in a state with a Republican-controlled legislature that, through tactical and highly effective gerrymandering, has maintained such a stranglehold on politics (in spite of there currently being over 275,000 more registered Democrats in the state) that the embittered voters finally passed an anti-gerrymandering amendment to our state’s constitution in 2010 (which Republicans and, if we’re being honest, Corrine Brown, have been fighting ever since).
She is also one of the first black women in the history of the United States to be elected to Congress. Before she and several others took office in 1993, only seven African-American women had been elected to Congress. Seven. In 204 years.
If she is taken down by this most recent scandal, and it’s starting to seem imminent, she will have earned at least some of the blame for her own ouster.
She still doesn’t deserve the kind of underhanded, nasty, abhorrent attacks on her position that Adkins’ recordings revealed. And if she were white, or male, or a Republican, she probably wouldn’t have been treated in such a vile manner in the first place.