received a lot of email and a few phone calls from this piece.
Rather than respond to each individually, I’ll respond to them
as a group:
some people believe I either wrote this article or endorse
it. Neither is true. I simply copied it from the
East Bay Express
and sent it without comment because (1) it was about
Richmond; (2) it is provocative and (3) there are some
kernels of truth in it. The parts about kingmakers, machine
politics and the use of racism in Richmond politics and even
racial cronyism are not news; they are themes that have been
written about for years and, in my opinion, reflect the
worst of Richmond.
that Richmond City government is making a sea change away
from diversity to avoid underperforming employees is not
accurate. The article is headline looking for a story – but
the story doesn’t wash. Two of four of City
Council-appointed (as opposed to city manager-selected)
officers are African American, and one is female. Five of
nine senior department heads – almost all recent hires or
promotions, including Bill Lindsay’s second in command
(Human Resources Director Leslie Knight) are African
American, and two are female. Richmond’s Housing Authority
director is African American. Richmond City government is
diverse as ever, and these are all exceptional employees,
chosen for their qualifications, not for their skin color.
of police job does not have a history of being race-specific
or even African American. The hiring of a white police chief
should be neither remarkable nor news. Two of the last three
interim chiefs who served a combined period of over two
years, I believe, were white. Former Chief Bill Lansdowne is
white. During the last ten years, white police chiefs have
been at least as predominate as others. This is certainly
not a “momentous transition” as described in the
East Bay Express.
is keeping track of how well City employment in the higher
echelons matches Richmond’s ethnic and racial diversity, we
are short, if anything, in the Latino and Asian columns. We
are also short in the female gender column.
Frankly, I am getting a little tired in general of anybody,
including my colleagues and an onslaught of City Council Public
Forum speakers publicly keeping track of what the City of
Richmond is doing or not doing for any specific ethnic or racial
group and who is getting more and who is getting less . I remain
convinced that all citizens want the same thing from their city
government. They want the City to be safe and clean. They want
well-kept parks, recreation opportunities for their kids, open
libraries, clean streets without potholes and responsive City
government. Anybody who isn’t getting these things is being
cheated, regardless of the color of their skin or what
neighborhood they live in.
That doesn’t mean that racism no longer exists in Richmond. I
can tell you it is, unfortunately, alive and well. But keeping
score of what each ethnic or racial “community” is getting or
not getting is, in my opinion, neither productive nor the way to
overcome racism. It just keeps reminding everyone of our
differences rather than our common objectives.