Bankole: Mayor’s race can’t be won on race card alone

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News
State Sen. Coleman Young II announces his candidacy for mayor of Detroit, sitting below a five-foot tall poster of his father, former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young.

Detroit’s mayoral race should not be won on the altar of racism. It should be won on the merit of the candidates who are seeking to lead this majority African-American city.

Mayor Mike Duggan should stand on his record and face the hard questions about how his policies have impacted people in the city.

Newly announced mayoral candidate, state Sen. Coleman Young II, should also stand on his record and explain in detail why he would make a different mayor.

Yes, racism is a powerful and corrosive acid that has had a glaring and sometimes subtle impact on those affected by it. And African-Americans for years have been at the receiving end of many brutal forms of racism including institutional acts of bias — whether deliberate or not — that have prevented their advancement in jobs or in the chain of command in major companies. That is well documented.

But the charges made recently by political consultant Adolph Mongo, a spokesman for Young II, that Duggan has abandoned the city’s majority African-American population in favor of white billionaire investors is a very serious charge, even if you believe the charges bear no merit.

Mongo’s comment is an attempt to appeal to the silent majority in the city who feel they have been left out in the comeback of Detroit.

These individuals don’t come downtown. Perhaps the only time they will make an attempt to come to the business district is during the annual fireworks display. They are not experiencing the revival of the city because their communities are not being revived.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who is seeking a second term, gave his fourth “State of the City” address last week at Focus: HOPE in Detroit.

Moreover, political leaders — long before Duggan became mayor — have made many unfulfilled promises to them. These residents are even skeptical of some in the black civic leadership because they see them as nothing but collaborators with the politicians at city hall, who talk a good game during campaign seasons and then show no action after the election.

If Detroit’s comeback is going to mean something, the silent majority whose children are living in abject poverty have to be part of the revival. Because their lives do matter.

The Detroit News has written many stories documenting the unacceptable poverty children in this city are living in. Yet I have not seen any serious or major action taken by city hall to tackle this issue. Because of the misery these children are experiencing, we need to declare a state of emergency in Detroit.

Let’s be honest. All is not well in the city. All is not well in the body politic. We can’t go around pretending that everything is OK when a large segment in this city sees the rejuvenation of Detroit as a cash cow for major investors, who are shuttling in and shuttling out while the conditions in their battered neighborhoods continue to deteriorate.

Detroit is more than just the three neighborhoods the mayor mentioned last week in his state of the city speech as examples of communities that will receive recovery dollars.

At a recent meeting of the Detroit Rotary Club, I told the audience Duggan was not elected to be a Malcolm X, Desmond Tutu or Pope Francis. But the mayor’s office offers a powerful moral platform that can be used in getting things done beyond legislative action.

The mayor can use his moral power to ensure the workforce among companies in the downtown area is diverse and reflects the city.

Strategic Staffing Solutions, founded and run by Cynthia Pasky, has long been in the trenches hiring Detroiters. Other companies can follow that example. An urging from the mayor would go a long way in ascertaining that diversity in the workforce becomes an imperative, not a charitable option for local employers.

Absent of doing what is required only validates Mongo’s charges. Still, the race for the mayorship of Detroit should be based on the record of the candidates, their commitment to the issues of equality and justice, and not on the stale meat of racism.

Twitter: @bankieT

The writer hosts “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Super Station 910AM. This column appears Mondays and Thursdays.