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A whirlwind of ethnicity

Melvin B. Miller
A whirlwind of ethnicity
“I guess the only thing you can do is vote for the best person.”

Not too many elections ago, people spoke of “racial minorities.” The objective was to assure that this group should somehow be acknowledged. But as the Black and Latino populations grew, that expression became numerically outmoded. The new concept became “people of color.” While that awkward designation is still current, many people simply go directly to their ethnic reference. It appears from the diversity of the candidates for Boston City Council and mayor that ethnicity is now less significant.

There have been sufficient population shifts for different ethnics to appeal directly to their fellows for political support. Now Cape Verdeans, Haitians, Jamaicans, Puerto Ricans, Irish, Asians and Arabs publicly announce their ethnic identification with the hope that they will also influence others to support their candidacy.

What has always existed has now come into the light. Boston has always been a major port of entry into the U.S. New immigrants have always looked to their fellow citizens for support. But it was once considered necessary to impress others with one’s basic patriotism. There had to be some expression of support from emerging groups for the customs and values of those who became citizens of the country earlier.

It is amazing that Annissa Essaibi George could be criticized for asserting that her understanding about Boston has been enhanced by living here all her life. Criticism from others seems to suggest that such infinite knowledge of this city is, in fact, an impediment. The problem with such an absurd assertion is that it indicates a lack of depth in the critic.

Roxbury has produced so much talent that has left to pursue opportunities that community active residents are glad to have creative people come to Boston from elsewhere. Indeed, Boston is highly competitive, but to be related to an affluent and powerful progenitor is not a necessary qualification for success. Of course, it always helps.

The issue before the candidates for mayor is whether they have an adequate strategy for correcting the multiple problems of Boston during a period of change. And just as important as that is whether the people have confidence in the veracity of the candidates and feel at ease with the prospective new occupant of City Hall. 

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