barbara-jordan_web.jpgYou would think that Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm would have learned a lesson from the outburst of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, (R-S.C.).  The lesson: Racism is not easy to disguise as fair comment when one’s outburst is expressed with a tone so uncivil and rude that it is difficult to explain any other way.

Perhaps, as Wilson wishes us to understand about his need to shout liar at President Obama in the chambers of the U.S. Congress, Mr. Grimm would like us to believe that his disparaging and personally insulting characterizations in The Miami Herald on Monday, Sept. 21 of former Congresswoman Carrie Meek and her son, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, are not motivated by bigotry, but by his deep passion about the issues.

Are we to believe that Mr. Grimm felt it furthered his argument about lobbyist pay to ask why Congresswoman Meek, now an 83-year-old grandmother, needed to "haul her tired old bones to Washington?"

Mr. Grimm also sneeringly concluded that most South Floridians must believe their congressional delegation, Congressman Kendrick Meek being the only one mentioned by name, are "dithering incompetents."  Mr. Grimm goes on to opine that if "U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek was doing his job, there’d be no need to hire his momma…." 

In his fit of passion, Mr. Grimm failed to mention that the relatives of other legislators, including several South Florida Cuban-Americans, Anglos and others also currently serve as lobbyists for local governments in Washington D.C. and in Tallahassee along with several former legislators who are also not black.

For anyone who is not aware, Mrs. Carrie Meek represented Florida’s 17th District in the U.S. Congress for ten years, 1993-2003, and was one of the first black people elected to Congress in Florida after Reconstruction.  She was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1978, served until 1983 and was the first African-American female elected to the Florida State Senate.

This granddaughter of slaves and daughter of sharecroppers graduated from Florida A & M University, got her master’s degree from the University of Michigan, and served as a teacher at Bethune-Cookman University and an administrator at Miami-Dade College. Carrie Meek is now a much-beloved icon of this community.  She possesses extraordinary experience with a variety of critical issues, along with many productive and important relationships among our diverse ethnic, racial and socio-economic populations here and in the U.S. Capitol. In my opinion, Miami-Dade County has much to gain by hiring Mrs. Meek to represent our interests in Washington.

As to Mr. Grimm’s insinuations about the competence, or lack thereof, of South Florida’s congressional delegation, (only Congressman Meek was named), I will have to leave my comments for another forum.  This is because of another lesson that Mr. Grimm failed to learn from the unfortunate experience of Rep. Wilson.  That lesson: Once people begin to believe that your reactions to public policy issues are not based on logic or on heartfelt concern for the community good, but that what you say is based on something more primal, insidious and ugly, it is then that people truly stop listening.

To put it another way: When you insult somebody’s mama, people wonder what you are really trying to say and why. That, Mr. Grimm, is a lesson that your mama should have taught you.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan represents District 1, which includes the cities of Opa-locka and Miami Gardens, as well as portions of North Miami Beach and North Miami, and a portion of unincorporated Miami-Dade County.