(Black Caucus) Controversies
In 2004, Green Party presidential candidate and consumer activist Ralph Nader attended a meeting with the Caucus, where he says that Congressman Mel Watt, later the chair of the Caucus, twice uttered an "obscene racial epithet" towards him; Watt subsequently did not offer an apology. Nader wrote to the Caucus afterwards:
"Instead, exclamations at the meeting... end[ed] with the obscene racist epithet repeated twice by Yale Law School alumnus Congressman Melvin Watt of North Carolina. One member of your Caucus called to apologize for the crudity of some of the members. I had expected an expression of regret or apology from Congressman Watt in the subsequent days after he had cooled down. After all there was absolutely no vocal or verbal provocation from me or from my associates, including Peter Miguel Camejo, to warrant such an outburst. In all my years of struggling for justice, especially for the deprived and downtrodden, has any legislator--white or black--used such language? I do not like double standards, especially since our premise for interactions must be equality of respect that has no room, as I responded to Mr. Watt, for playing the race card. Therefore, just as African-Americans demanded an apology from Agriculture Secretary Earl Butts and Senator Trent Lott--prior to their resignation and demotion respectively--for their racist remarks, I expect that you and others in the Caucus will exert your moral persuasion and request an apology from Congressman Watt. Please consider this also my request for such an expression--a copy of which is being forwarded directly to Mr. Watt's office."
Over the years, the question has arisen, "Does the Caucus allow only black members?" Pete Stark, D-Calif., who is white, tried and failed to join in 1975. In January 2007, it was reported that white members of Congress were not welcome to join the CBC. Freshman Rep. Stephen I. Cohen, D-Tennessee, who is white, pledged to apply for membership during his election campaign to represent his constituents, who were 60% black. It was reported that although the bylaws of the caucus do not make race a prerequisite for membership, former and current members of the Caucus agreed that the group should remain "exclusively black." Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., the son of Rep. William Lacy Clay Sr., D-Mo., a co-founder of the caucus, is quoted as saying, "Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. He's white and the Caucus is black. It's time to move on. We have racial policies to pursue and we are pursuing them, as Mr. Cohen has learned. It's an unwritten rule. It's understood." In response to the decision, Rep. Cohen stated, "It's their caucus and they do things their way. You don't force your way in."
Rep. Clay issued an official statement from his office in reply to Rep. Cohen's complaint:
"Quite simply, Rep. Cohen will have to accept what the rest of the country will have to accept - there has been an unofficial Congressional White Caucus for over 200 years, and now it's our turn to say who can join 'the club.' He does not, and cannot, meet the membership criteria, unless he can change his skin color. Primarily, we are concerned with the needs and concerns of the black population, and we will not allow white America to infringe on those objectives."
(not to mention there is a Black Union in this country that just held their State of the Black Union Conference, which Hillary Clinton spoke at)