On a recent local morning radio program in Hampton Roads, Republican state Senate candidate Wayne Coleman decided that it would be a good time to comment about how busing in the 1970s was the downfall of education – despite not being asked that question specifically.
When asked how to improve education in Norfolk, Coleman replied:
“I’m old enough to have lived during the desegregation of the schools here locally. And busing children, in my opinion, around the different districts, getting them out of their local neighborhoods, really was the beginning of the decline in some of the school districts.”
In the words of Homer Simpson: “Doh!”
Regardless of whether or not there is any merit or explanation for Mr. Coleman’s remarks, there was no reason to make this comment.
We live in an era where the black community votes as a bloc nearly 9:1 for the Democrats. And, in the urban environment of Norfolk, where the black population is 43%, and predominantly makes up the 6th Senate District, saying something that can only come across as offensive is not only wrong, but a losing proposition.
This was nothing but an unforced error.
The reality is that Coleman is, in the vernacular, an OWG (Old White Guy). Having an OWG say something on the radio that seems to come across as “things were better before desegregation” is not only likely to offend black voters, but to inspire them to vote Democrat.
Coleman was already facing an uphill battle in the 6th District, which has only been held by a Republican for a handful of years over the past several decades. He needed to run a gaffe-free, perfect campaign in order to win.
He hasn’t. And all the explanations, retractions, and clarifications won’t help him now.
Additionally, it is well past time for blacks and whites to have a reasonable discussion on race. That won’t happen until everyone starts looking forward, with a vision of equality and community. Looking to the past and laying blame is not acknowledging the present and looking for solutions.