“As long as New York City is a diverse no-man’s land, race will always be a big shot in its politics.” – Anonymous.
How true is this popular slogan among New Yorkers? If it is true, how is it being used by some candidates this year to score more political points? And how healthy is racism in the socio-political atmosphere of New York City? These and other questions will be thoroughly answered in this article.
In an attempt to comprehensively tackle this issue, on April 30, 2021, I produced and directed a TV show titled New York and The Politics of Racism, with a couple politically conscious New Yorkers, i.e. Political Journalist Robert Press and Prof. Anthony Rivieccio, Founder of Northwest Bronx Democrats, as guests. It was observed, at the end of the show, that racism has always been a common card played by NYC politicians and even ordinary New Yorkers. It is played in schools, at workplaces, among parents, and mostly between the people of color and the White community members. For in-depth understanding of what was discussed on the show about racism in the NYC politics, please visit Parrot TV Channel on YouTube using this link: https://youtu.be/JY8N1lafGVg .
Historically speaking, according to Rivieccio, an Italian-American New Yorker, White Americans were fully in control of the New York City until the 1970s when a large number of immigrants who were mostly people of color relocated and settled down in New York City. Since then the politics of the city started changing gradually, giving more rooms for the minority to take part in the socio-political leadership of the city. However, Rivieccio submitted that even though the City is known as one of the most diverse cities in the world today, the White still control directly or indirectly the political leadership of NYC, this time from Staten Island.
Out of curiosity, I went further to interview a number New Yorkers living in different locales in the city, in order to come up will a more objective and scientific conclusion on the impact of racism on the New York City politics.
Mind you, before I go deeply into what ensued during the interviews, it is important to note here that all those interviewed agreed that race matters a lot in the New York City politics mainly because it is a heterogeneous and metropolitan setting. They all also believe that those who rule the New York City understand the importance of number and active engagement in civic duties.
For instance, when they were asked whether or not the race of this year’s contestants have significant impact on the election, Dennis Golding responded that “the race of this year’s contestants definitely have a tremendous impact on the election because of the wide racial makeup, each with very different ideas and experiences.”
This is also in line with what Sima Karetnaya, a peace advocate, community leader and medical expert based in the borough of Brooklyn, also said that “the race has always impacted the outcomes of elections in New York City, because the diversity of this city includes a vast array of opinions and perceptions. Unfortunately, many of them are discriminatory.”
However, Abdoulaye Cisse, a Muslim African Immigrant and community organizer based in the Bronx, avoided the use of race, so he opted representation and diversity as the replacement. “New York is a progressive state. It’s well represented. Race is not an issue but representation. This has a good impact because it’s very diverse, so the diversity of the candidates will create diversity in the folks that actually go to the polls. Communities that generally or typically did not go out to vote will now be inspired to go out to vote because they feel the candidates that are running represent their community,” he said.
Golding too added that “people’s attitudes toward political activities, (especially this year’s election), is determined by the racial makeup of the candidates. It’s too long these politicians take our votes for granted. For instance, I feel that a candidate of my race will be more in tune with my concerns.”
Additionally, it was observed that the main reason why race is more important in this year’s election is because NYC needs leaders who can easily handle multicultural and heterogeneous challenges posed by Covid-19 pandemic.
Hence, Karetnaya said, “I feel that this year race and culture are more carefully assessed when looking at political candidates. This is because we are entering a new phase in the life of NYC. This phase involves the rethinking and re-establishing multicultural diversity.”
In conclusion, it was finally observed that apart from Karetnaya who backs the politics of racism in NYC, the rest of the New Yorkers interviewed submitted that even though race has a great impact on who and who win this year’s mayoral, comptroller, borough presidential, Civil Court Judge and City Council elections, it is highly recommended that New Yorkers should carefully prioritize competence over any other thing when electing their representatives or political leaders.