By Gordon Davis
The elections in Worcester have been affected by the new civil rights movement Black Lives Matter.
Its effects are also being felt nationally. The effects are not always as obviously dramatic as incumbent Worcester City Coucilors not making the cut off of twelfth place on the Worcester ballot, but the effects are seen in new ways racism has played a direct role. To a large extent the entire election season has been framed by racial issues not only in Worcester, but in the campaigns of Clinton, Stein, Sanders and Trump.
The race issue has been brought to the front by Black Lives Matter. There has been a wall of color blindness in past Worcester elections and other important issues, such as jobs and education. For example, many people still feel that the killing of Cristino Hernandez was not a racial issue; other people turned a color blind eye to the issues of disparate unemployment among dark skin people (people of color). Today the City of Worcester is working hard to pretend its policies of police accountability, jobs and education are not racially disparate. Just look at the fact that the City of Worcester has dissolved the Affirmative Action Committee and replaced it with a Diversity Committee which has nebulous responsibilities.
Black Lives Matter has changed most of this color blindness pretext for racially disparate policies. When Worcester City Councilors Michael Gaffney and Gary Rosen got up on the council floor and said that they wanted an audit of Mosaic (a center in the poorest Worcester neighborhood) and that it is not an issue of racist retaliation, everyone in the City knows something different. These racists are some of the people whom Worcester City Councilor Konnie Lukes calls the “Trumps Effect” on which she is counting on to send her back to the Worcester City Council. It has been made clear to many in the Black and Latino communities which politicians are pretending to be against racism and who is using racism to whip up the “Trump Effect.”
Black Lives Matter has changed temporarily the way the police respond to complaints from the public. The police are more courteous and responsive for now. The police are will adapt transparency as a policy, as seen in the Worcester Police Department. The Massachusetts State Police has been named the most secretive police department in the country. The City of Worcester’s malicious prosecution of the Black Lives Matter protesters shows that the powers-that-be are afraid of mass demonstrations and disruptions.
Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus and Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme have spent a lot of time and money in the courts. These disturbances of the peace will likely happen again in the near future, as the police are likely to return to their old ways. The chant of Black Lives Matter and others of “No Justice, No Peace” has taken on new and significant meaning.
Black Lives Matter exposed City Manager Augustus for the pretender that he is. He could have negotiated with the Kelley Square protesters about real change in the City’s policies; instead he retaliated against them on the most frivolous and non-existent evidence. The City Manager then came out with a 28 point plan that is just a shell game shifting responsibilities from one department to another. Worse still the Manager initiated a laughing stock known as the Department of Justice Hearings.
Further to be said regarding the elections in Worcester: some people stepped forward to replace the old backward thinking incumbents. Black Lives Matter created the environment that allowed 11 people from the Black, Latino and Asian communities to believe they have a chance of effectuating change through Worcester City Council service. Unfortunately, many candidates did not make the required twelfth place preliminary for the at-large election or the second place finish for the district elections.
A takeaway from the Worcester preliminary election is that people of color will unlikely win elections in districts in which White people are a majority. There have been some exceptions: all women of color candidates have won at large elections. No men of color have won any election since Charles Scott did so in the 1910s.
Based on my knowledge and belief there are only two districts where there are large enough so called minority’s voters to affect an election: The first is Sarai Rivera’s district 4 council district where she defeated Barbara Haller some years ago. The second district is Mary Keefe’s state representative district.
The effects of Black Lives Matter on society are not over and have not been fully felt.