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Blacks must fight to defend democratic rights

Melvin B. Miller
Blacks must fight to defend democratic rights
“Man, with Henriquez and Arroyo out, looks like we have a hard time keeping those high-level government positions.”

While there has been greater black participation in elections, there are still too many who believe that they are powerless, and their vote has little significance. But with the election of Donald Trump as president, black voters can lead the spiritual reformation of the country. That goal requires blacks to be politically well-informed and active in every election.

The American principle of freedom, justice and equality has encouraged blacks to endure the burden of racial discrimination. Like many others, blacks are inspired by the nation’s Declaration of Independence:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

There is nothing in the language to suggest that an enlightened state of the government will be easily attained. The first battle was to end slavery. Now the opposition is trying to make it difficult for citizens of color to vote, and to make their vote worthless. As demanding as it is, blacks must contest every effort to render the black vote worthless.

Unfortunately, there was hardly any protest when the state Legislature ousted Carlos Henriquez from its body last February, 2014 by a vote of 148-5. Henriquez had been duly elected, but he was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery against a female companion. However, there is no legal basis to permit the House of Representatives to take such action.

The weak response from the black community sends the message that black political officials or operatives are fair game in political machinations. Now another similar situation has emerged and citizens of color must not sit by and accept the damage to the reputation of Felix G. Arroyo.

Hilani Morales, an employee of Boston’s Department of Health and Human Services filed a sexual harassment complaint against Arroyo. Included in the complaint as defendants are the City of Boston and Mayor Martin Walsh. This is especially troubling to Walsh in an election year because he would not want to appear to be indifferent to harassment claims of female city employees.

Arroyo and other department heads of Walsh’s administration are employees at will. The mayor has the right to fire them, even without cause. After an internal investigation which did not include cross examination of the complainant, Walsh decided to fire Arroyo. The hearing before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has not yet been held.

While Walsh has resolved the problem with feminism, he has created another issue. Two of his department chiefs were arraigned last July for violation of federal law. Kenneth Brissette, Boston’s tourism chief, and Timothy Sullivan, the head of Intergovernmental Affairs, are both accused of illegally threatening to deny permits to a music festival unless they hired union workers are under indictment for a serious federal felony. Their trial will be in January, after the November election, but both men will be drawing their pay until then.

Brissette and Sullivan are both white and they have been treated better than Arroyo. However, it is not reasonable to assume that it is because of racial discrimination. But it should be clear that black tolerance in the Henriquez case has made them easy targets. It is time to vote to strengthen the bloc to place the promise of the Declaration of Independence within closer reach.