Not long ago, Vinceng Gray defeated the incumbent mayor of Washington, DC, Adrian Fenty, and became the presumptive next mayor. As a result, Michelle Rhee is leaving her job as schools chancellor. Washington has notoriously bad, yet expensive public schools. Rhee was trying to improve the schools and was willing to knock heads and to fire people to do it.
In the election, the black communities were central to Gray's victory. Why? As the Washington Post noted, firing public employees hits the black middle class:
As mayor, Fenty retained his overwhelming popularity among white voters, as a breakdown of last Tuesday's vote demonstrates. But he lost the support of vast numbers of black voters who derided him for ignoring their communities and slashing government jobs. Many of those jobs were held by African Americans, who since the advent of D.C. home rule have used city employment as a stepping stone to the middle class. . . .
Although blacks and whites recognize the importance of the public schools as a vehicle for educating their children, blacks also see the school system as a primary employer, providing jobs to thousands of teachers, school bus drivers, administrators and secretaries. When Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee laid off hundreds of teachers, many blacks saw something more than a simple purge of poorly performing educators. They saw an assault on economic opportunity.
To put it more bluntly, the leadership of the black community is heavily invested in working for the government. Statistically, if memory serves, the percentage of blacks who work for the taxpayers is higher than that of any other ethnic or racial group in the U.S. In short, it might be the case that the interest of the black middle class conflicts with the interest of the rest of the black community. The idea of ending tenure for civil servants and teachers threatens a very strong, entrnched interest in the black community, even if opening up the job market is, in fact, in the real, long-term interest of the community as a whole.
Perhaps the rise of black tea party candidates represents a move to change that, reducing the dependency of the black community on the government, and breaking the perceived uniformity of interest in the community.