“A frend loveth at all times, and a brother is made for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17)
By Rasheed Baaith and Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
In 2020 there will be an election for the Office of Broward County Sheriff. There is no denying the importance of both the office and the election. Additionally, it will be an election of historical importance.
The office is presently held by a Black man, Sheriff Gregory Tony, who was appointed by Gov. DeSantis to replace former Sheriff Scott Israel. That appointment too is of equal importance as Sheriff Tony is the first African American to hold the office of Broward County Sheriff. And although some say Scott Israel was the “first Black Sheriff,” he is not Black and could not be the “first Black sheriff”. It is an insult to ourselves to say otherwise.
Sheriff Toney is having to restructure and replace much of what is essential and what is not that was put in place by Sheriff Israel. It will be of interest to see how well he does. He has to get to know our community as much as we have to get to know him. But there is one way he is connected to us. If he does not do well or even competently, those and there are many, who do not believe we can do well in such an office, will use his appointment against us. Let’s hope he does well even if you are supporting someone else in the upcoming election. Why? Because of who and what we are, we will always be connected in some way to each other. Whether we like it or not and for better or worse.
In the upcoming election in 2020, there will be at least five men of color running for the office That our community will be fragmented as a result is an understatement; we’ve seen this before in other elections. Still, that might well be the least of our problems. The greater problem is insuring that the fragmentation and the division in our community wrought by the election does not leave permanent scars or fissures as our communities have not fully recovered from the last time this scenario presented itself.
Our partisanship should be sincere but not unreasonable, our political camps should not be indissoluble places of residency. How do we prevent this from occurring again in our community? By recognizing the election has importance but not enough importance to destroy relationships. Already I hear potential candidates saying “If someone is going to support me, I don’t want them even talking to my opposition.” That people is just so much verbal diarrhea.
I cannot speak for anyone else but I intend to speak to anyone I please. I do not intend to end relationships, some more than 25 years in duration because of an election. That way of thinking is tantamount to the thinking of slave masters and dictators. It is the kind of thinking our community has fought against all of our lives. It supports a type of censorship regimes in totalitarian states hold fast to. It’s the kind of doctrine President Trump aspires to have in place.
So the animosity is already simmering. Our community cannot let the simmer become a boil. We cannot copy the behavior of drastic political practices that will gain us nothing else but disunity for our future. To break up family, friendship and business relationships because of a political campaign is nothing short of imbecilic.
The candidates, however many there will be, will play the biggest role in this political fire prevention. Their campaigns have to be without personal attacks against an opponent’s family or the opponent him or herself. There are subjects that are germane to administration of the Office of Sheriff and those that are not. Nobody is interested in the sexual habits of someone’s family pet.
Candidates need to focus on policy evolvement, leadership capabilities, experience, their paradigm for recruitment and training. Even more, what is it they have with our community except for skin color? If that is the only commonality, what is it as a Black man that makes you a better Black person than the Black person standing next to you?
Finally, there is this: we are living in a time more dangerous for us than any time we have lived in before. Certainly as far as politics is concerned. We need each other more politically than ever before.
Support who you want to be Sheriff but do not decide because anyone differs with you, that relationships, friendships, or brotherhood has to be ended.
If you do, remember with enough time and enough elections, soon only politics will share your life; all your friends will be gone.