Are Black Officials Unfairly and Disproportionately Investigated?

Author George Derek Musgrove published "Rumor, Repression, and Racial Politics."

Are Black Officials Unfairly and Disproportionately Investigated?

Author George Derek Musgrove discusses whether Black elected officials are "more likely probed for corruption" in an NPR interview.

Published July 17, 2012

  (Photo: Courtesy University of Georgia Press Publishing)

From almost the start of his tenure as mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray has been at the center of one scandal or another, whether it be investigations into whether his campaign paid someone to target opponent and then-Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2010 or current allegations that his campaign money was spent illegally to conduct a shadow operation. In addition, two members of the District's city council have had to step down this year for acts of criminal behavior. At the federal level, several current and former members of the Congressional Black Caucus have faced or are facing House Ethics Committee investigations.

Are Black lawmakers being "unfairly probed for corruption" or just bad seeds? That's the topic of a book by author and history professor George Derek Musgrove, titled Rumor, Repression, and Racial Politics. He explores the issue and how investigations of Black elected officials during the period between 1965 and 1995 have shaped post-civil rights era America in an interview on NPR with host Maria Hinojosa.

HINOJOSA: This is such a kind of specific topic, looking at whether or not black politicians have been targeted. You wanted to do kind of the definitive work, take it beyond the talk and do the research work behind it. Why?

MUSGROVE: Well, you know, when I sat down to a study of post-Civil Rights Era black politics when I first entered graduate school, I was interested in figuring out what happened when all the marching stopped, you know, what happened when black folks shifted from protests to politics. And as I was going through a bunch of records, I just kept finding black elected officials claiming that the government and the news media was out to get them, that there was literally a conspiracy to undermine black leadership.

And so I wanted to look into it. I wanted to understand if, in fact, this was going on. But more than figure out whether or not there was a conspiracy or there was a pattern, I just wanted to figure out what it meant that black folks believed this, even if it wasn't true. And so the book is a product of trying to answer those two questions.

HINOJOSA: All right. So was there, is there a conspiracy?

MUSGROVE: No. There are patterns of disproportionate targeting that stretch roughly from the 1960s to the mid-1990s. There's also been a recent pattern in the last three years with ethics investigations of members of Congress, but there is no organized conspiracy. No.
Click here to read or listen to the full interview.

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Written by Joyce Jones


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