By: Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
In public life, an inconsistency, or any other form of transgression on the part of someone pushing a controversial perspective, can be used to attack an otherwise perfectly logical argument.
My recent opinion piece in the Boston Herald on the black community’s missed opportunity in the mayoral race generated a firestorm in the print and electronic media.
Unfortunately, that firestorm focuses on my own failures, and completely misses the point of my original argument about moving the black community forward and learning from the harsh lessons of last week’s mayoral preliminary election.
Some in the media have correctly pointed out that I have not voted since I worked on the 1983 mayoral campaign of Melvin H. King. All right, I openly admit my shortcomings. But my individual vote was insignificant in comparison to the importance of the causes I supported.
So I state unequivocally that I regret that I haven’t voted over the last 30 years. But that mistake in no way affects my determination to continue serving the poor that many of my critics have ignored. And my voting record is no reason to hate on the messenger.
The response to my Herald article thus far has generated much more heat than light. Let’s get rid of the personal attacks and focus on the logic of my argument.
The black community currently suffers from the lack of effective mechanisms for wealth creation, economic development, increased home ownership, education, job training and public safety. While past mayors have brought growth to the downtown business districts and to some neighborhoods, these efforts have not benefited minority communities nearly to the same degree.
Crime rates are highest in the three black neighborhoods, and a stubborn achievement gap between white and minority students persists in our public schools.
Minority communities in this city have never enjoyed the benefits of holding the highest elected office in the city. We have never had a figure like Harold Washington in Chicago — a leader who developed policies that benefited everyone, including minorities.
Washington saw that the problems that minorities face are not confined merely to minority neighborhoods, and that these problems reduce the stature of the city as a whole. That vision is urgently needed now, at a time when Boston needs to draw and welcome the talents of all ethnic groups.
After centuries of white leadership in this city, we had a golden opportunity last week to advance a minority mayoral candidate to the final election.
That victory, in this majority-minority city, would have sent a message of hope to young black and brown people.
That victory would have served as evidence that it is possible for them to achieve at the highest levels, and inspired them to renewed effort in their own lives, just as the example of the first black president has done.
Boston still has an opportunity to develop a different model, to find a route to development that incorporates all the communities of the city. For that to happen, however, the black community cannot defeat itself again by failing to come up with an effective strategy to win a mayoral contest.
The residents of black and brown neighborhoods must embrace a more sophisticated approach and exercise electoral discipline when needed.
We have several rising electoral stars among us: Charlotte Golar Richie, who I campaigned for; Ayanna Pressley, who led the pack in the preliminary election for City Council; John Barros and Felix Arroyo.
Together, these leaders can craft an agenda that addresses the most pressing problems in minority neighborhoods.
I call on these rising stars to put the needs of the community first — to become a team of rivals — so that we don’t make the same mistake in the next mayoral election.
And when they do, I promise to go out to the polls and cast my ballot.