A photo taken to mark the ascension of a “Young Democrats” leader has kicked up some racial blowback.
The photo, posted Wednesday on social media (and since removed) by an outgoing member of the Connecticut Young Democrats, was taken at a meeting to elect a new chapter president. It showed members of the leadership present at the time. All the people pictured were white.
Except one: ex-President Barack Obama.
Obama wasn’t there in person. And he’s not a member of the Young Dems executive board. Rather, the group posed with a life-sized cardboard cutout.
Before the photo was taken down, it made swift rounds among political leaders of color.
“Everybody has been texting it to me all morning,” said state NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile.
He called the posting of the photo a “slap in the face” indicative of “clear racism going on in the Democratic Party.”
“It looks like the only black they can find is a cardboard Obama. That’s the perception of it. The disingenuous part is that during the eleciton cycle, they were at all of our churches. They were putting up signs throughout our community. All of our organizations.They can find us during eleciton season. As soon as election season is over, they can’t find us,” Esdaile said.
During the election season, Esdaile and others complained about what they called the rigging of a party convention to prevent Congressional candidate Jahana Hayes, who is African-American, from winning the support of a party convention. (She later won a primary and then the general election.) The failure to name a person of color to the gubernatorial-lieutenant governor ticket also provoked criticism.
“Ninety-four percent of the black community voted for [Gov.-Elect] Ned Lamont in the last election cycle. Mid-70 percent of Latinos voted for him. Mid-40 percent of whites voted for Ned Lamont,” Esdaile said. “We give so much to the Democratic Party. Our return on investment is despicable. The Democratic Party has to do better in the state of Connecticut.
Constance Vickers, who was elected as the Connecticut Young Democrats’ new president at Wednesday night’s meeting at state Democratic Party headquarters in Hartford, called the affair an “embarrassing” “misunderstanding.” It was a special meeting called to elect a new board president because the previous president, Kim Glassman, had resigned. (She had turned 36, aging out of the role.)
Present and past board members who were still around after the meeting posed for the photo, Vickers said. It turns out that four of the board’s nine members are people of color, she said, but they happened not to be around at the time.
“The cardboard cutout — that was an absolute mistake,” Said Vickers, a 28-year-old fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. “We have a cutout of Obama and Bernie [Sanders] that we use at a lot of events. We should not have used that photo. It was embarrassing for me and for the board.”
She said the organization had not distributed the photo; Glassman had put it on her personal Facebook page.
The Young Democrats will choose other new board members in April. The group plans to work with groups like the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus to ensure it has diverse pool of candidates, Vickers said.