Saturday, 2:15 PM
Globe Magazine preview: Chuck Turner on race, ethics
For an essay in the Boston Globe magazine that will appear this Sunday, freelance writer (and former Boston city councilor) Tom Keane conducted an e-mail interview with Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner. The e-mail exchange, which occurred before Turner's arrest, focused on his continued support for state Senator Dianne Wilkerson despite her years of legal troubles. Turner sent an 896-word response on Oct. 31 that follows in its entirety. It touches on politics and race and states, "Its time for Americans to admit that ethics never have had a significant influence on American politics."
Q. Why do you continue to support state Senator Dianne Wilkerson?
A.The Second Suffolk Senatorial Race: A Different Perspective: Chuck Turner
I resent the accusation that my support and the support of other African-Americans for Dianne Wilkerson's sticker campaign in the November Second Suffolk Senatorial District (District) race is based on the thought that an "African-American" is entitled to the seat.
The District was created to enable the Black and Latino community in the geographical heart of Boston to elect a State Senator to represent the "community of interests" that held us together. While race was a significant part of our shared interests, the shared interests also included our economic and social situation and the fact that we were actively engaged in a fight against racial discrimination.
Remember the seat was created in 1974 on the eve of the busing era. We were struggling in the courts to desegregate the MBTA, the Boston Police Department, the Fire Department. Discrimination was rampant not just against Blacks but all people of color. The District was
consciously created as a safe seat to give the Black and Latino community and its organizations a base in the Senate to support our fight against the on going racial oppression in Boston. Senators Bolling, Owens, and Wilkerson were elected to the seat not because of their race but because they were viewed as leaders in Boston's Black and Latino struggle for justice.
Mel King and Kay Gibbs in a recent commentary on the creation of the Second Suffolk Senatorial District and the race for the seat said, "The objective was to create a new district that was a "community of interest" among voters of similar backgrounds, interests, and needs, just as other neighborhoods in the proposed new district map were ethnically, economically, ideologically, and politically cohesive."
That statement speaks to the heart of the dilemma. The reality is that the Second Suffolk Senatorial District is not the same District that was created in 1974. In order to create a second Senate seat where a person of color could be elected (a seat now occupied by Senator Hart), Senator Wilkerson designed a new alignment for the District by dropping precincts that were predominantly Black while adding precincts from Jamaica Plain, Back Bay, and Chinatown that were collectively predominantly white. Also, the addition of Jamaica Plain and Back Bay changed the economic demographics of the district. The reality is that the community of interests that brought the District together in 1974 is no longer there in the "ethnically, economically, ideologically, and politically cohesive" manner referenced by Mr. King and Ms. Gibbs.
My support for Senator Wilkerson's sticker campaign is not based on race but on my view that those of us who live in the "old" part of the District in the tough times ahead need someone in the State Senate who has a history of leadership and working familiarity with our community, organizational concerns, and needs. While times have changed, the community of interests for the majority of people in the Roxbury-Dorchester part of the District remains much the same as in the 70s-racial justice, economic parity, and the development of a network of institutions that will help us with the development of our children.
Since Ms. Chang-Diaz whose base is in the "new" part of the district has had little contact and familiarity with the people and organizations of the "old" part of the District, I do not think she will be able to provide the leadership or protection of our interests in the Senate that we need. That's why I continue to support Dianne Wilkerson for State Senate.
I find it ironic that after a decade in which leaders in Boston's African-American political community
a) Played a leadership role in the development of the New Majority to empower people of color politically across racial lines
b) Provided active support for the candidacy of Felix Arroyo who topped the City Council At Large ticket in predominantly Black precincts
c) Provided active support for the candidacy of Sam Yoon who came in second to Felix in the Council At Large race in predominantly black precincts
We are now being accused of supporting Dianne because she is African-American. Good Grief! Give us a break.
Q. Under what conditions -- short of the bribery charges she now faces -- would you have decided that Wilkerson had crossed a line and was ethically unworthy of your support?
A. From an ethical standpoint, I dont think the vast majority of Congress should be allowed to sit. Ethics should include a commitment to the needs of the people of this country which the Congress has not displayed. Given the fact that all our state governments and the federal government is controlled by money, I think it is hypocritical to talk about ethics when you talk about our political leaders or our business leaders, religious leaders, etc.
Its time for Americans to admit that ethics never have had a significant influence on American politics. If Americans cared about ethical behavior, why did slavery last for two hundred years and neo slavery last for another two hundred? Why does America have the weakest laws in the Western World to protect a working person right to have a fair return on their labor. Why were the Irish treated as animals when they were driven to America by the politics of the English ancestors of the Yankees who treated them as if they were black when they were driven here. Im surprised Tom. I didnt think you were in denial of the reality of the moral depravity of this country.