I have a rule that I use when assessing the stances of people on social issues: if you are older than me – especially if you are a lot older – I give you a pass on not being as open-minded as I am. I understand that you were raised in a different time – when women, blacks, gays, and other minorities were second-class citizens, not just from a societal perspective but also from a legal one. Anyone my age or younger gets no such pass – you should know better.
My family and I got on the topic of birth certificates the other day. The race on mine says “colored,” which I have always taken as people at least being polite, especially in the deep south where I was born. My nephew was born here in Virginia in 1972 – his says colored, too. One of my sisters never got a birth certificate – long story – but when she was about to retire, she needed something to prove her date of birth. So she got something a few years ago that verifies that she was born; she was crowing that hers said “black.”
When Hillary Clinton was seeking the nomination in 2008, I was surprised that many of my older female friends were against her candidacy; a woman, they told me, shouldn’t be president. Not everyone who lived through the heady days of the women’s revolution in the 1970s could shake what they had been raised to believe.
There are many reasons why gay people stay in the closet. We all have painful stories of being rejected by family and friends, so why subject ourselves to even worse by the public at large?
The older I get, though, the fewer of those “older than me” people exist, so I have fewer opportunities to offer a pass on their perspectives. That doesn’t stop me from trying to get them to change their minds, because I do, with varying degrees of success. But there are some cases that I just let go – my now deceased mother-in-law never learned to say anything other than “colored,” for example – because, truthfully, it’s just too painful for them.
Which brings me to Richmond mayor and minister, Dwight C. Jones. I first met him when he served in the House of Delegates and have had the opportunity to speak with him at various functions and events since. I wouldn’t call us friends or anything, but I’ve been around him enough to decide whether I like him or not. I like him.
But he’s the wrong choice for DPVA chair.
At 66, Jones was raised in a different time. He no doubt can regale you with tales of being a black man in America and all that entailed, coming of age as he did in the turbulent 1960s. But that was also a time when women knew their place and gays were in the closet.
That perspective is not appropriate for the face of the Democratic Party of Virginia.
To be perfectly honest, though, I don’t consider anyone older than me as the appropriate face of the DPVA.
I’ve said repeatedly that the DPVA needs to engage younger people and do away with its system of “wait your turn” that permeates the party and stymies its growth. It is why I have argued, long and hard, for term limits for members of State Central, Congressional District chairs, and local committee chairs. The old guard of the DPVA won’t yield to the younger unless they are forced.
I’ve said repeatedly that there needs to be a system to groom younger members for office – it’s called building a bench, folks.
The reason the party elders are looking to anoint a 66-year-old man the next DPVA chair is because of this.
The next party chair should be a younger person, one who can help to steer the ship into the headwinds of 2014 and beyond. Race or gender doesn’t matter to me; rather, the face of the party should be someone young enough to fully embrace the party’s platform and old enough to have the experience to execute it.
It’s called moving forward, folks.