The current buzz in local newspapers and commentaries, begun by Nolan Findley, Detroit News Editorial Page Editor, poses the question, “Is Detroit ready for a white mayor?” Talking heads have come out of the woodwork to air their opinions about a question that I do not think has legitimate place in our discourse. Oh, I understand why the question arose. My mother, a grass roots political activist, was certain that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick would be Detroit’s last African American mayor. I was not convinced, and when Mayor Bing was elected it closed the debate for me and since then, I never gave it anymore thought.
In the past few months, the political upheaval in Wayne County and Detroit that began with the McNamera and Kilpatrick administrations, has snowballed where more and more employees with any authority over fiscal matters whether they be contracts, real estate, taxes or employment, seem to have personally benefited from their authority. Not only that, but from all accounts, the perpetrators do not sport any specific demographic profile. For instance, the former Wayne County Executive (1987 – 2002), Edward McNamara, was Caucasian, yet from the 1990s until his death, there were whispers of backroom deals, no-bid contracts and exorbitant travel junkets under his watch. His successor, Robert Ficano, has been accused of disbursing in excess of $1.1 million dollars to his political appointees, yet he in non-African American and the recipients are a diverse group. Same thing with the city of Detroit’s scandal-laden administrations, especially under Mayor Kilpatrick. All ethnicities, all departments, all types of kick-backs, nepotism and unearned gain are attached to that political era.
So, what is the point of the question, again? Is it because Mayor Coleman A. Young, Detroit’s first African American mayor was elected under the glare of racial unrest, racial discrimination and racial segregation? Is it because Mayor Young ushered in his era of political rule with stories of his wish to urinate on Alabama when he flew over the state as a Tuskegee Airman? Or, his declaration for all racists to hit 8 mile road. Or, his nationally renown derision of President Ronald Regan as ‘old prune-face’? Is it because the majority of Detroit’s voters are African American and someone has decided that given a choice of two candidates of different races, African Americans will only vote for an African American? Or, is it because the majority of all African American voters voted for the African American, Barack Obama, for president?
It Just Occurred to me, that the question was not posed because anyone actually believed that Detroiters would use race as the determining factor in their choice for mayor in 2014. Nope, Nolan Findley posed the question as a cost effective market survey to test the public’s opinion regarding a particular candidate with a not so secret desire to be Detroit’s next mayor. With this person as the only Caucasian interested in becoming Detroit’s mayoral candidate, the discourse has now turned from is Detroit ready for a white mayor, to how does this particular Caucasian candidate stack up against a growing list of non-white possible candidates. Currently, where an entire political regime seems to be either incarcerated, facing indictments or suddenly falling dead from the stress of it all, Detroiters will likely prefer a brand new group of candidates to consider. Candidates with few, if any, ties to the past or present inept players in Detroit political games.