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  RE: Burning Richmond Race Card (East Bay Express)
December 9, 2005

I 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:

  • Apparently 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.

  • The sense 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.

  • The chief 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.

  • If anyone 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.