A Michigan congressman is being attacked by his opponents for not being "black" enough to represent the state's newly redrawn 14th district, which includes Detroit, CBS Detroit reports.
Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) responded Wednesday to allegations that he is only posing as a black man in order to gain votes, saying racial divides are tearing Detroit apart and are partly to blame for the state of the city's economy.
Clarke is running against two black women, Mary Waters and Brenda Lawrence, and two white men, state Rep. Gary Peters and Bob Costello. After participating in one debate this election cycle, he says won't do any more because the racial rhetoric is too intense.
For instance, a racially charged robocall was also reportedly released in the district this week claiming that Clarke was "not black." Furthermore, Waters previously told the Detroit Free Press she's the only black resident of Detroit in the race.
A distraught Clarke spoke with Talk Radio 1270 host Charlie Langton and discussed the influence of race in the election.
"Who really gives a care right now?" Clarke told Langton. "My opponents are so desperate they can’t attack me based on what we’re doing, based on my record, so they’re going after my poor deceased parents who have been dead for 30 years."
Although Clarke's mother is listed as "white" on her birth certificate, he identifies himself as "multiracial" with a light-skinned black mother and Indian father.
"That’s the way it is, sometimes people viewed light-skinned black folks as being white," he said. Either way, the congressman says the race of his mother shouldn't sway voters.
Clarke also argues racism has stopped business owners and new residents from coming to Detroit, where roughly 80 percent of all residents are black.
"Our region has been so divided based on race it’s actually undercut our economic growth," Clarke explained. "The only reason we’re the only metro area in the country without mass transit is these politicians want to play race all the time. The costs have been enormous on us."
"When people believe they’re going to be hassled because of who they are as a person they don’t want to live in that community," he continued. "It’s overall, it’s part of the whole equation when you look at where to live. Nobody wants to live in a neighborhood where they feel their kids are going to get hassled and threatened and jeered. No employer wants to do that either."
Instead of continuing to divide voters, Clarke explained he wants to bring everyone together as a multiracial candidate. His mother was Episcopalian, his father a Muslim, and he's a Roman Catholic.
"You want to talk about race mattering? It does matter. We have young black kids who can’t read who are going to prison in droves, costing us billions of dollars, wasting these young men’s lives, and depressing our economy, robbing us of their contributions. That’s what we need to focus on."
Don’t cheapen people like that, that’s been the problem in metro Detroit, we’ve appealed based on the worst of people and look what’s happened to our city — look at it… It’s because of this kind of ignorant perspective. We need to be focusing on serving and helping people.