Black people aren’t monolithic, but that didn’t stop city leaders from creating a black political agenda, or the media from assigning a future voice of black Philadelphia.
Leading up to May 19th’s primary election in Philadelphia, I knew given the actors in pursuit of power, that it would eventually become racially polarizing.
My fear of the impending race wars wasn’t based on Philadelphia being an incredibly racist city, although it is.
Instead, my fear was that some in the black political class would seek to inject unnecessary racial jargon into the dialogue, particularly portraying the black citizens of Philadelphia as a monolith that thinks, votes, and convenes alike.
I was confronted by that fear sooner than I’d expected. The unfortunate drama started when Mr. Jim Kenney—a former Philadelphia City Councilman who resigned from the City Council after 23 years of service to run for Mayor—was endorsed by a cohort of black politicos, including Philadelphia City Councilwoman, Ms. Marian Tasco, and State Representative, Mr. Dwight Evans.
That move angered some in the black political class, who then responded, melodramatically, by suggesting that somehow blacks had given up their seat at the table, and, even more, their political birthright.
The controversy surrounding the endorsement of a white male candidate for Mayor by black folks in power, while several black men are campaigning, was exacerbated by an article from the Daily News that posed this question: “Is Jim Kenney the Future Voice of Black Philadelphia?”
Not only did the article, sadly, perpetuate the idea of black people as a monolith, it challenged the established black political class, their position of influence in the city, and made them quite nervous of their abilities in the future to exploit the communities in which black people reside for their own political agendas.
Part of the “blacklash” from the endorsement included an Op-Ed from businessman, Mr. Bruce Crawley, who argued that is was “far too early to have any elected officials give away the African-American community’s political birthright, especially when we’re all aware that the Black Political Summit, during which community members had been planning to convene to craft the black political agenda, had not happened yet, and wouldn’t take place until April 11.”
What Mr. Crawley didn’t mention, however, was that the Black Political Summit—which charged attendees either $10 or $20 and hadn’t been an active brand for nearly two decades—wasn’t representative of all black people’s interest in Philadelphia, but instead that of only a small minority whose social standing may alter if a white person takes control of the City.
Mr. Crawley, and the others who’ve spoken out against Kenney’s endorsement, question whose right it is to give away the black political birthright, while not acknowledging that they don’t have any less—or any more—right to create and promote a black agenda for all black people in Philadelphia.
The entire argument is antiquated, unfortunate, unwanted by the majority, and trivial. It’s also a major distraction from the real issues.
The majority of communities in which black people reside—not the black community, there’s no such thing—are facing serious challenges. One of which is excessive arrests for non-violent offenses, was mitigated when Mr. Kenney sponsored a bill to decriminalize marijuana, an act that Mr. Crawley, in his opinion piece published by The Philadelphia Tribune, suggested wasn’t that big of a deal.
The fact of the matter is, decriminalizing marijuana in Philadelphia was not only historic it was a civil rights victory for the countless black men and women who were arrested for small amounts of pot, while their white counterparts sold, traded and smoked “weight” without consequence.
The majority of communities in which black people reside haven’t seen their problems decrease any, in part, because those who they believe are representing their interest are, in fact, representing self-interest.
As a black man in Philadelphia, I won’t vote for a new mayor based on the color of his/her or skin or a black political agenda, but, instead, I’ll analyze the candidates’ political positions in coordination with my political interest and make an informed decision—I’d urge others to do the same.
As for the “leaders of the black community,” all I’ll say is this: the difference between good leaders and great leaders is that the latter creates new leaders, not new followers.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™