In "Power Failure," Michael Jonas argues that local black politicians have not made use of some excellent opportunities. Why doesn't Massachusetts have more prominent black leaders?
We are suffering from the Jesse Jackson syndrome. Focusing more on what is not being done for the minority community than on what the community can do for itself. If we want more influential leaders we have to vote, be proactive in our communities, and be more proactive in general. As a community the we tend to be more reactionary than proactive. There is no significant grass roots effort to develop an agenda that can't be ignored.
Robin, South Boston
I agree with Robin from South Boston. The communities are trying to find leadership to address the issues of a cash-strapped, divided society. Currently, political leaders seem to look all problems as a symtpom of a black-white barrier instead of looking at the diverse nature of our communities. The poor need assitance and security. Non-English poeple need access to services. The elderly need to be taken care of and supported. The childern need education. These problems can only be resolved when the political leadership is willing to work with neighborhoods to understand the African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Latino, white and other elements of the community. There may have been lost opportunities but the future is still not written, so hopefuly someone will separate themselves from the party politics and come out to truely help our community.
I think the real question is "Why doesn't the United States have more prominent black leaders?" Black leadership has been nearly invisible at times. There hasn't been a leader as visible and effective as Martin Luther King since, well, Martin Luther King.
I am an African American woman and I moved here from Ohio 26 years ago. The second thing that appalled me about Massachusetts (after I learned about where NOT to go) was the complete absence of political power and influence of African Americans in this state. When I was still a kid in the 50's we had at least one black city council person who was reelected repeatedly, even after he was joined by others. In Columbus back then we not only black police officers, but at least one black during my childhood was appointed to a high level administrative post. Carl Stokes became mayor of Cleveland in the '60's. Outside of politics (somewhat, but not entirely) my alma mater, a public institution which could successfully compete with and exceed the so-called "elite" colleges of Massachusetts. I could not and still cannot understand that what we in the mid-west could do decades ago could not and still cannot be done in Massachusetts. And we're not just talking about the mid-west (yes I know Cincinnatti has some major racial issues right now, but believe there is and will be political response from the black community); we are talking about cities and towns and even little crossroads in the deep south who have elected blacks to major office, council, mayor, police chief, etc. So what is the problem with Massachusetts/Boston? I think what you here call "tribalism" we from away would call racism, and I would also suggest that your local black communities are complicit in that. I remember a quote from some elderly local black woman that I heard not long after I arrived here (it could be myth, but I suspect there is truth in it): "We [Negroes] here [in Massachusetts/Boston] never had these problems until those colored folks from the south came up here." That's a paraphrase, but you get the point. I am saving for the day that I can pick up, pack up, and move back to Ohio or to someplace down south. My two cents, but I stand by everything I've said.
From Away, Salem
There are no black leaders that have the backbone or the stomach for political life in this city or state. Our schools are not able to produce the analytical thinking that is necessary for college let alone prepare our kids to be able to debate issues of community interest. As a people, we are always worried about being attacked or having our name smeared in the newspapers or other forms of media. We also face the uphill battle of getting the lame black voters of Boston to stand for anything but themselves. Boston is a selfish city and it shows in our political philosophies. Our political motivations have been put on the shelf and have been collecting dust since Jeep Jones was deputy mayor. I bet a lot of people dont even know who he is. But i do.
Why were schools in the South desegregated by the supreme court before the schools in Boston were? Why was bussing to desegregate in Boston a huge failure? Because the segregation in Boston is de facto, which makes it much harder to fight than the kind that was in the South. Racism in northern states is harder to fight because it isn't as obvious, and no one will admit that it exists. Besides which, our schools are funded by property taxes, which means that the wealthy white kids get a better public education than the poor black inner-city kids. How can you expect them to rise out of that kind of race and class bias? (The land of opportunity and equality? I don't think so.) Granted, other states have the same school funding system and they have more black leaders. But we can credit that to our special brand of northern, de facto, hidden racism.
Student, The Fenway
As a native Bostonian, and one who has lived in other cities around this country, my opinion of Boston politics starts with the lack of a general foundation to even define the "black community". Boston for centuries has been a type of transient way station for people. Communites are the bedrock for people to stay in any area. The lack of a recognizable black middle-class has not allowed a foothold to ever be established here in Boston. This lack of collective, visable, and influencing existence also discourages new transients from staying long in Boston. The black churches also lack this same type influence. Boston is just left with a grass roots approach to politics. Black politicians are now struggling to define who there constituants really are. Most of this is based on racism and nepotism that was so pervasive in Boston. So the black middle class now takes up most of its struggle to penetrate the glass ceilings of corporate Boston. They have shown very little interest of defending the community through politics. The rest of the community is just trapped in a class struggle for survival. This has created a vicious cycle. This situation will only get worse as Boston becomes less polarized in its demographics. Based on affordability and urban gentrification, The bondaries of the black community will become less clear.
Tom, Milton (formerly of Boston)
Look, I was "hampered" by prop 2 and 1/2 when I took the civil service test.Im white, I scored 99 two times, only to be passed over for black candidates that scored 7 and 9 points lower than I. Yeah, I was mad, they got the job on the local PD. I didnt. As I look back they are excellent police men, no arguement, would I have been better? Possibly, but I wouldnt have put up with what they have to now. Any way, I had to make a positive move out of it, so I did. I made something out of nothing. I am a small business owner, with great things always happening to me. I make these moves for my self. I make way more money than if I stayed a cop. I dont see why more blacks get further ahead in politics. They cant get there by affirmitive action, and THATS ANOTHER thing they probably dont need. When someone gives you something you have a complex from the get go, I dont care who you are.
Brian, North shore
This is Boston Ma. The smartest Colleges, worlds best hospitals, the arts, culture, and the food? I can see why it would be hard for a African American Woman from "away" to get confused, you were educated in Ohio! Away !(chuckle)
People are always whining about black people not getting a fair shake. It's such crap. If more black people wanted to be leaders they could be. There is a shortage of them because many of them don't want to be. More than political leaders black people need leaders at home. They need to be better parents and show their kids that hard work and perseverence are the keys to success. I'm not suggesting that black people are not good parents but the figures show that more black kids are born out of wedlock and many don't have stable families. That is where it all begins.