Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Norton Questions Mostly White Ferguson Government

Norton characterized the nearly all-white elected leadership and a police force in majority black Ferguson as "poison." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Norton criticized racial disparities in Ferguson. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is characterizing the nearly all-white elected leadership and police force in majority-black Ferguson, Mo., as “poison.”

“Here you have mostly white police force in a mostly black community, but I’m really perplexed about why most of the elected officials are white as well,” Norton, a Democrat, said Tuesday during an interview with MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart. “Is there something about the way elections are done in Missouri or in the county?”

Though members of Congress have raised the alarm about mounting violence and militarized police in the St. Louis suburb, Norton, a Yale-educated civil rights lawyer, may be among the first to raise the issue of racial disparity among Ferguson’s elected leadership.

The narrative emerged following the shooting death of Michael Brown, as The New York Times and other national media began examining voting and electoral politics in the protest-torn community. While Ferguson is 67 percent black, it is led by a white mayor and a six-person city council with only one black member. Six people on the seven-member school board are white.

“That’s troublesome,” Norton said on MSNBC. “Usually, when you get a minority community, or a community that becomes mostly minority, you get some diversity of representation. So, you may have elected leadership as well as a police force that does not feel that they are truly representative of the community — and that’s poison.”

Race often comes into play during discussions about local politics in D.C., where the city’s longtime black majority has dwindled to below 50 percent. Majority-black wards helped elect Mayor Vincent Gray, the latest in a long line of black mayors since the city was granted home rule in 1973. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and six members on the city’s 13-person council are white.

Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who is black, won the Democratic mayoral nomination in April. She faces at least three white challengers, including Councilmember David Catania. The November election could be the first time the “Chocolate City” elects a white mayor.

Norton is a third-generation native Washingtonian who attended school at the city’s segregated and prestigious Dunbar High School. She helped organize the 1963 March on Washington as a young activist. Living in New York in the 1970s, Norton chaired the city’s Commission on Human Rights and was appointed as head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Jimmy Carter.

If she were in Ferguson today, Norton said, “the first thing I’d be doing is organizing voters to go to the polls in November.” She also commended the federal response to tense situation, saying the federal government is “about the only government that could be termed as doing something correct.”

Forty FBI agents are on the ground in Ferguson, according to officials. President Barack Obama has announced that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will travel to the community on Wednesday to talk with local leaders.

Related stories:

Behind the Camera in Ferguson

Obama Dispatches Holder to Ferguson

Democrats Call for Judiciary Hearings on Ferguson Violence

CBC Members call for DOJ Investigation

In Wake of Ferguson, New Focus on Civil Rights, Militarized Cops

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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  • Sea Dog

    This Liberal recommends Eleanor Holmes Norton establish residence in Ferguson, Missouri – then run for Office. That’s how it’s normally done.

    • Carroll Barber

      In Ferguson she would be a no-body! Come to think about it, she is a no-body in D.C. 😉

  • BrynGilkey

    Highly unlikely Bowser will lose. Less a black white election than an established one party rule of Democrats in DC.

    Nothing likely nefarious about why elected leaders in Ferguson are white. Unless you think it ‘s nefarious for blacks voters to not vote their interests? Or, vote at all? The current mayor of Ferguson hopefully isn’t the best Ferguson has to offer, regarless of race.

    • JohnnyAngel Advocacy Group

      Like the president,not the best available but still elected. Why ? Ninety percent blacks voted for him and 45-50% racist whites !! ? :-)

      • meanmarine

        Ninety eight percent of blacks voted for Obama not Ninety percent.

  • JohnnyAngel Advocacy Group

    Crime is higher in black neighborhoods run by black government, what’s her point ?

  • Wolfeman
  • pkbw

    Ferguson, MO is run by mostly white people because the black people refuse to go to the polls and vote. So that is what they get. If they want to change the leadership in Ferguson, vote for black candidates.Well, perhaps there are no black candidates running there. Personally, I would like to see Capt Ron Johnson run for mayor. But perhaps the black people would not vote for him either.

    • WBCarson

      Are there any viable black candidates who have ran? Whites DO vote for blacks. That state is not a GOP state as well.

  • Bobo brazile

    ell we have seen what happened with Ray Nagin, Marion Berry, Jessie jackson X2, Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters, Sheila Dixon, Kwame Kilpatrick and the pos in the WH to name a few, some just aren’t made to govern.

    We won’t even discuss imbecilic chimpanzees claiming islands will capsize.

  • verelll

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  • Jorge Orwell
  • WBCarson

    Oh, so its all about race again.

    • pkbw

      It’s almost ALWAYS about race in America.

      • JaimeIslandGuy

        you mean always about the race card

  • firedup49

    My question would be, how many black cops are applying.
    I thought the Dems preaching was all about intergration, diversity.
    Now they want to segregate, black or white police force towns
    They should make up their minds which is it

  • JaimeIslandGuy

    The simple fact is that the objective physical evidence shows that the narrative Norton et al have been pushing on Ferguson is a lie.

    Mike Brown AND the only witness claiming he was “shot in the back with his hands up” were fleeing a ROBBERY that included felony assault.

    There are now 14 witnesses, 13 of the African Americans corroborating the cops story. All THREE autopsies show brown had ZERO bullet wounds from the back.

    And blacks don’t vote. Blacks have a lower than average voting participation in modern black run DC. Is Norton saying DC, which is a DNC camp, is suppressing the black vote?

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