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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Friday, September 16, 2005

nyc mayoral race

I remember sitting in the Columbia University dining hall overlooking Harlem, and talking with a group of students from the suburban New York Metro Area, New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island...

And I said, "You know what, I bet we'd have better discussions in Contemporary Civilization and Poli Sci. if more students from the neighborhood went here."

They were aghast.  "But that would mean letting kids in who have lower SATs, who aren't qualified!"

"Maybe, or maybe not," I replied, "but you're not getting my point.  We sit in class and have these idealistic discussions about poverty and equality and yet most of us are so privileged, so much the same, that we don't know what we are talking about.  I'm arguing that having more kids from from the City would improve the discussion for everyone, for all of us."

My comrades were again aghast, "But that would go against meritocracy!"

"Would it?" I aked, "How do we know?  How are you so sure?  NYC is a big place."

Now, with that conversation I was just making a simple point.  I was tired of my "sincere" classmates talking about urban realities that they really had no idea about.  In my experience, race and class really do make a difference in people's abilities to talk about and discuss many issues.  It's just true.  We all have blinders and prejudices, especially to our own privilege. And those blinders affect everything, including how we run our government.

As I've grown older I've realized, however, that that conversation was also about so many things...including who gets to be a partner at a top firm downtown, or who runs the Oncology department at the research hospital, or whose name gets inscribed in stone as a top funder of the University, heck, even who might become Mayor of the City of New York.

Now, I'd love to think that advocates of Bloomberg were saying they were voting for him because he represented the best candidate for improving the lives and education of New York City's children, of all races...that he represented the best chance for New Yorkers of all colors to work in leadership positions and develop high-powered resumes and experience and overcome the racial divide that has plagued the city's politics and civic life. But that argument is not one we're hearing for the most part.

Can one make that argument in good faith? That is the crux of the matter. For myself, I am left feeling like the assumptions inherent in my fellow classmates' responses about qualifications and meritocracy are part of the dynamic of the discussion of why some Democrats are abandoning their party and voting for Bloomberg.

Personally, I think there's a great of deal of blindness here. A large part of political rhetoric is saying...."Look, here, we did this! We made this work!" Voting for a Republican in this context, with control of our nation's most powerful city and rebuilding after 9/11 at stake, is not merely a one-time event; Boomberg's reelection would have cascading effects that flow from it, including powerful ones about racial voting and party dynamics in the city of New York.

Now, if enough Democratic voters in New York are committed to giving their votes to Bloomberg to give him an assured victory, either through a positive assessment of the man, or a negative assessment of his opponent (and we have to face facts...if it is clear that that's what some voters are gonna do at some point, that's what they are gonna do...) then where are the voices that are addressing that fact?

Where are the folks looking out into the city, and saying...New York is a big place, we need to make a change in how we do things to overcome this divide. Where are the folks looking out into Harlem and Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx and saying..."Where is the future Democratic Mayor of New York and how can we get him, or her, to Columbia University?"


  • As you can tell, I'm not talking about Ferrer yet. I simply need to learn more, and to hear from some friends in NYC about what they think of him....

    I'll get back to you all on this. I'm not going to hide on this one.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 1:00 PM  

  • I recently started a doctorate program in clinical psychology and we are required to take a diversity seminar during our first two semesters. To be honest I didn't know what to expect from it, but after our first two classes I have to admit that I have been impressed with both the students and the Professor. So far we were told to arrange a group outside of class visit to the Without Sanctuary exhibit at the Chicago Historical Society, which is mind blowing in its own right, and had interactive discusions about oppression, privelage, and various other topics relating to diversity. During one of our discussions I raised the exact point that you raised during that class at Colombia, because a majority of the class is from a white middle class background, and contrary to your experience, everyone agreed with what I said.

    They agreed that it would be much better to have as many voices as we could in these discussions. That hearing someone else's real perspective is infinitly more valuable then talking about it and trying to imagine it ourselves. Hopefully we'll figure out a way to bring that into the class.

    At one point I even brought up some of the issues you discuss in terms of what it means to live in city. It came up because a few of my classmates are from NYC and they were remarking at how segrated Chicago seems in comparison. It sparked a discussion about the difference between racial segregation and economic segragation that was really interesting. Anyways, I'm not exactly sure how this all ties in to what you said, but I thought it was worth writing about.

    By Blogger simplesinger, at 2:36 PM  

  • Sorry that was so long. I have problems with writing short comments.

    One last thing. I really dug the discussion you and Paul Rosenberg had over at MYDD the other day in your Lakoff post. I had actually been thinking about writing a similar post myself, and I would have commented in there somewhere, but I didn't find it until the conversation seemed to be over. In fact my first post ever on daily kos sort of related to your "flipping the rock" idea, albeit in a rather crudely written way.

    Anyways I just wanted to say that since I've started getting involved in all this blogging stuff, yours and Paul's voices are the ones that resonate the most with me. It was really terrific seeing you guys hashing out some important issues like that. Maybe next time I won't be such a Johnny come lately, but it was great to see nonetheless.

    Damn it this one was too long to.

    By Blogger simplesinger, at 2:52 PM  

  • Great posts.

    Vis a vis the "you can't handle the truth" line from A Few Good Men...I've heard that used a number of times exactly as you were doing it. ie. as a way of saying, you want to know the truth about America, do you really want to know?

    Interesting. And obviously, I think the work you all are trying to do in Chicago is valid. Wish you luck.

    Thanks for the links.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 4:40 PM  

  • That's OK, let's give the future mayor of New York a break and let her go up the street to CCNY, where she can dig a diverse student body and not have to put up with the frat boys.

    It oughta be tuition-free again, though.

    By Anonymous YellowDogBlue, at 9:32 PM  

  • Yeah, I was just trying to tie the knot....of one end of the piece to the other.

    I notice that the sponsering schools for Posse in NYC doesn't seem to include Columbia...(which does have its own program called Double Discovery.)

    Fwiw, the next mayor of New York may well be Ferrer. You never know...and, in fact, referring to High School students was not my intention of predicting how long we have to wait...

    more delineating what our priorities and insistence should be.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 9:46 PM  

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