03/30/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Three R's: Roland, Racism and Resignation

The Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune editorials have called for the resignation of Senator Roland Burris.

I oppose their position. I should hope fraternities, preachers, politicians, teachers, civil rights organizations, unions and the black press would stand up at this time and take a stand for Senator Burris.

Roland's integrity is intact. His public relations machine is not. The whirlwind has been caused by the fact that he started from scratch--no office, no campaign--he started at ground zero. One day, he stood up to be the Illinois senator of the United States. Now, it is time to stand up to the job.

Roland voted for President Obama's stimulus package. His vote was needed for the passing of the bill. Perhaps a Democratic sense is that Burris served his purpose and now he is dispensable.

Ulterior Motives

This is a coveted seat and the Republicans want it badly and so do some Democrats. Look closer. All who are calling for his resignation have vested interests.

Governor Pat Quinnwants to put his own person in the seat. And if we follow Quinn's lead of holding a special election, it would take 180 days to do so and it could cost a bankrupt state $50 million dollars. That's money that we don't have. Does Governor Quinn think the stimulus money would pay for an election? Save it for the next time such an appointment is required.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias was all set to run for the governor's seat, and now he is hot for the Senate. Pundits say he can swing the black vote thus making it easier for him to beat a black candidate. This is President Obama's basketball buddy and he probably thinks he has a leg up for the Senate race. Perhaps he is the Greek Obama.

Illinois State Comptroller Dan Hynes is interested in the seat. Cook County Clerk David Orr is really vocal about Burris. However, in his nearly 20 years in office, he has never spoken out about other political scandals or controversial topics--there have been pay-to-play scandals, affirmative action fronts, family ties, indiscretions and even wrongful deaths. So why is Orr speaking out now?

Give Him a Chance

Roland Burris deserves a fair chance. For all practical purposes, Illinois has been without a full time junior senator for the past three years. And now that we have one, let him do his job. A good Burris trait was demonstrated in his recent vote for the stimulus package. He voted for the package one day and kicked off a Listening Tour to hear from the people of Illinois about the package. On the flipside, senior Senator Dick Durbin came home and went to Greece with Alexi Giannoulias. A political deal in the making, perhaps. Certainly a contrast.

Do You See What I See?
Roland Burris is the only African American in the United States Senate.
Upon taking the office, the press couldn't find dirt on him, so they were creative. They mocked the size of Burris' ego because both of his children are named after him. What's wrong with that? Frank Sinatra did it. As did the Kennedys. Are you egotistical to name your child after yourself or are you a proud parent? How many juniors do you know?

The media have even zeroed-in on Burris' unfinished tombstone in Oak Woods Cemetery. Quirky? Absolutely. But shouldn't we all plan for that ultimate moment? The press has mismanaged Burris and some of it is his own doing. Given that Burris entered the post under former Governor Rod Blagojevich's cloud, he is still subjected to more scrutiny than most--and at least one journalist admits the race-tinged double standard.

After discussing media bias on WVON-AM Talk Radio, Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass asked his fellow journalist Steve Rhodes if accused black candidates are treated differently. Rhodes acknowledged, 'You don't see the same ferocity applied to the Daleys and the Madigans.' Hmmm. Think about it.

The basic difference in the media coverage is that the white politician is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty and the black politician is assumed guilty until proved innocent.
White accused candidates are treated with respect and decency.

The television cameras and print photographers show them in their office, lawyer's office, in the courtroom or in front of the courthouse. Black candidates, however, are ambushed on the street like criminals or they're shown running down the street, clumsily getting out of the shiny new car and in other awkward and/or damning situations.

Images are powerful, and just as powerful are the images that are not seen. Some politicians are never shown in shifty situations--think of Fast Eddie Vrdolyak or even former Governor Ryan--even when the FBI raided the City Hall building, the building and its corridors, were shown, but not Mayor Daley.

Burris' position is under a dark, hanging cloud because he took the appointment from Blagojevich, who was also treated disrespectfully--like a black politician, almost--in the media. If Burris is guilty of perjury, he should be removed from office, as the proper authorities would do. But there is more at play here. Much more.

The Democratic vote is important in Washington at this critical hour. Burris should serve his appointed term. And the people of Illinois should vote their choice at the next election in 2010. That's just my humble opinion.