BUSINESS EXCHANGE: Keith Ellison Finds Good Work Is Hard to Come By

Photo by Travis Riddick Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) speaks during a Sept. 22 news conference held by the Congressional Black Caucus outside the Justice Department headquarters in D.C. calling for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate the killings of unarmed blacks by law enforcement officials.

The current black unemployment rate of 9.2 percent is more than double the 4.4 percent white rate. Are you struggling to find a job? Have you been looking a while? Surely, looking for a job is a complicated process. Many factors need to be in place for the right candidate to find the right job. It takes a special breed to function and thrive in the “American mainstream.”

Take the case of Rep. Keith Ellison, for instance. The Minneapolis congressman is campaigning to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), but his past ties to the Nation of Islam are putting him in a tenuous position.

Congress’s first elected Muslim has been represented Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, a geographically urban and suburban district that covers eastern Hennepin Country and city of Minneapolis since 2007. Keith Ellison was no Malcolm X. But now Congressman Ellison seeks to lead the DNC, the governing body for the Democratic Party.

The DNC coordinates strategy to support party candidates for local, state, and national office throughout the country. The DNC organizes the Democratic National Convention held every four years to nominate and confirm a presidential candidate and formulate the party platform. The DNC chairperson is elected by the committee, composed of chairs and vice chairs of each state party committee and over 200 members elected by Democrats in all 50 states and the territories.

The selection of the DNC chair warrants African-Americans watching. Who will sit at the helm of the Democratic Party? Will it be the grass-roots or the corporate donors? Many say Ellison is the choice if you want for grass-roots-oriented people to control the party. For the “politically correct,” Ellison is the guy to get.

But his current bid to move up the political hierarchy has been complicated by questions about his views on Louis Farrakhan, the politics of Israel and Black nationalism.

For blacks and Ellison to function and thrive in America’s “politically correct” mainstream, you must “go along to get along.” In his quest for the DNC job, Ellison has been subjected to rehashing of articles he wrote in praise of Farrakhan while a grad student — 20 years ago. This has prompted prominent Jewish donors and media to call Ellison an “anti-Semite.”

A proud father of four, Keith was born and raised in Detroit, but has lived in Minnesota since earning his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990. Before being elected to Congress, Ellison spent his time on the black side of Minneapolis as a community activist and civil rights, employment, and criminal defense lawyer. He was elected to serve two terms in the Minnesota State House. He says his Congressional priorities are building prosperity for working families, promoting peace and advancing civil and human rights.

Ellison may be “hustling backwards.” A wealth analysis ranked him 514th of the 538 members of Congress in terms of wealth. The report said his average net worth is -$21,497, yet he’s indicated a willingness to give up his $174,000 congressional salary to take the DNC job.

Ellison lost credibility among African-Americans when he renounced association with the Nation of Islam in 2006, even though his writings and public statements during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s reveal an admiration for Malcolm X and the Honorable Louis Farrakhan.

The candidate for DNC chief has had decades-long involvement in the NOI and numerous defenses of radical black leaders. In his letter renouncing the NOI, Ellison told Jewish groups he’d seen the NOI and the Million Man March as positive efforts to promote responsibility and economic development in the black community.

But, chameleon-like, Ellison now says that his political beliefs moderated over time. Was it worth it? Only time will tell.

William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.

About William Reed 100 Articles
William Reed is President and Chief Executive Officer of Black Press International. He has been a Media Entrepreneur for over two decades. A well-trained marketing and communications professional, Reed has a national reputation for his expert writing, speaking, organizational, research, management and motivation abilities, along with strong managerial, presentation and sales skills.