The changing of the guard in Washington, D.C., including the White House, continues as the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) welcomed new leadership with Rep. Cedric Richmond (LA-02) taking over as the chairman for the 115th Congress effective Jan. 3.
Richmond has wasted little time challenging examples of injustice, recently taking on Rep. Steve King, an alt-right Republican from Iowa known for taking on crime only within the context of minority communities who during a public forum compared people in New Orleans, Richmond’s hometown, to Guatemala.
“I wear the badge of bipartisanship because I take up and stand up for principles,” Richmond said during the heated exchange. “I love and respect the people of New Orleans, I live in New Orleans and I am not going to sit here and allow you to use inappropriate, insensitive things about our city and our citizens. This is nothing more than white privilege criticizing a Black city.”
King maintains his support of many white supremacists and lauds his notion of the “superior civilization.”
Richmond has also gone after Trump and the NRA asserting that Philando Castile [the Black Minnesota motorist who lost his life at the hands of a police officer following a “routine stop”] was never a threat to police officers and should not have been shot and killed. And he’s pledged to stand with House Democrats to ensure that “Dreamers” have the protections they deserve.
Other members of the CBC say they’re behind him and encouraged by his leadership style.
“We have much work ahead of us during the 115th Congress and I am confident Rep. Richmond will provide strong leadership on the issues we champion to ensure all Americans have an equal and equitable opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” said the former CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield.
Others chosen in the elections include: Andre Carson (IN-07), 1st vice chair; Karen Bass (CA-37), 2nd vice chair; Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), secretary; and Gwen Moore (WI-04), whip.
Richmond, 43, born and raised in New Orleans, currently serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on the Judiciary. A staunch believer in the value of mentorship, he earned his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and his Juris Doctorate from the Tulane University of Law in New Orleans.
He’s also a graduate of the Harvard University Executive Education Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
He said in his role as the new chairman, the Caucus will continue to do what it’s done since its inception (1971).
“We will carry the mantle and arms for the African-American community, for people of color, in terms of fighting for equality and against discrimination wherever it’s found,” Richmond said.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve had a Republican-dominated House and Senate and a Republican in the White House all at the same time,” he added. “But it is the first time we’ve had such an unconventional president like Donald Trump. But that’s not something that causes us great concern.
“We realize that many who support the president-elect don’t hold equality and anti-discrimination among their priorities. Still, we’re going to keep on fighting for economic equality and for upward mobility for working people. Our biggest and most important task is to improve the landscape so people are able to make their lives better.”
Richmond pointed to the state of Black America using his hometown of New Orleans for illustrative purposes.
“We applaud the fact that under the Obama administration, 14.5 million jobs have been created but we still need to maintain our focus,” he said. “In New Orleans, the African-American male unemployment rate is 50 percent. That’s 50 percent versus the U.S. unemployment rate of 5 percent. Those differences are more than enough for us to be gravely concerned and a problem we simply cannot ignore.”
When asked about the morale of the CBC in light of the “surprising” defeat of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, Richmond said, “We’re resolved to fight for what’s important.”
“It’s never been easy for the CBC — and that’s whether the president has been Black, white, Democrat or Republican,” he said. “We take our jobs seriously — now more than ever we must be unified, determined and unwilling and unable to be swayed.”
“For lack of a better description, an unconventional, borderline bully has won the presidency. Now other bullies seem to feel like it’s okay to follow suit. Our country has become more intolerant – we’re determined to fight against that and them.”
“We have had some outstanding leaders representing the CBC during my time in Congress,” he said. “Butterfield, Cleaver, Fudge all had different leadership styles. Mine isn’t like any of theirs. Still, I’m going to make sure we continue the fight that our previous chairpersons have started and led. We’re going to take advantage of the progress they’ve made.”