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Good evening. Welcome to Black perspectives. Twenty five minute feature focusing on black issues information on Lifestyles of the communities of Boston. Sure. My name is Charles Desmond your host for black perspectives tonight. My guest is Bruce BOLLING city councilman for the city of Boston. Tonight's discussion will focus on blacks and politics today at extensiveness of this topic. This will be the first of a special three part series focusing on blacks in politics. Bruce I'm hoping that during the course of our discussion today we'll be able to look at the question of blacks and politics in a sort of a broad perspective that is to deal with the question of blacks in politics as just a national phenomenon how it how blacks in politics seem to be emerging in the United States and then perhaps later on in a discussion we can focus in on the unique political historical development you have hidden as it is surrounded just family in the politics of the city of Boston
and then perhaps we might reflect on just some other political issues that are now emerging in a city of Boston relative to different electoral positions that are going on. Obviously politics has become one of the most important functions in in the experience of blacks in the United States right now. And we see across the country perhaps starting in the south for us moving to the west and to the northeast more blacks getting involved in the political process so I think that we've got a topic that should be of interest to folks and I think it should be one that we can spend some time on. I guess the best place to start since I'm trying to get your perspectives on their staff is how do you. The last decade and a half we've seen tremendous amounts of national movement on blacks to get more involved in the political process. Historically it's been the track. Now we see the politics moving into the forefront in the consciousness of black people. What kinds of what kinds of feelings do you have about that and what do you think that all
means. Well I mean I think it represents a number of different phenomena. One thing I think we have to keep in mind is that we live in a democracy. We have a representative democracy and that simply is that when we elect people to represent our interests and represent our needs as we have to define them and the only way that you can participate in that process is by being a registered voter. That is your union card if you will. I think what we have seen of late particularly in the last few years has been a resurgence of that. Understanding to the extent that we have a number of initiatives a number of
organizations that have focused on voter registration voter education in a way that just reinforces the fact that the revolution that people have often talked about over the past decade and a half or what have you has largely been predicated on some kind of direct action we have gained from that direct action from the civil rights and human rights struggles of the 60s in the 70s and now we're where that direct action is culminated in a new arena and that arena is electoral politics. We've seen it very dramatically. In Chicago as well as Philadelphia. And just the other day a Hispanic was elected mayor of Denver. And that
bodes very well particularly for minority progressive candidates particularly in the major urban areas. This has given I think a resurgence to the minority community particularly to the black community in recognizing that we have a strength that we have never really fully exerted and that is the strength in the ballot. Voter registration initiatives have been sprouting across the country. They've resulted in some very significant gains for blacks right now. There's I believe 225 black mayors in this country you've got some of the major urban areas of the country that under the
tutelage of Black Mayors Chicago Los Angeles Detroit Atlanta. I think that says a lot. In terms of the political empowerment process. So what I am very much encouraged by what I'm seeing. I think that the political process is one of the quickest ways in which to bring about real substantive change. It's a it's a process that anyone can participate in as long as they're a resident of the particular community that they live in a citizen and you know reached will reach their 18th birthday by Election Day. Anybody can participate in the process. It doesn't cost anything to vote. And that's exactly what we've been doing and I think that is that shows that the power within the black community in the power that can be leveraged particularly at the municipal level
as major urban areas go. So don't the states in terms of national politics so what's happening in 1983. My view is just reinforcing the whole suggestion that you may see in black running for president in 1984 and not so much that a black would be running for president because black would have a good chance of winning for president but recognizing that the electoral process and minority participation in the electoral process has directly affected the Democratic Party more than anyone else and with significant defections if you will from the Democratic Party would surely spell defeat for the presidential nominee in Nineteen Eighty-Four. So the Democratic Party as well as the country as a whole is
really really looking very closely at the black political empowerment process and how that process is impacting particularly at the municipal level. We've seen in Chicago every indication is we will see it in Philadelphia. I'd like to think that that what you're saying is a very interesting evolutionary reveled evolutionary not revolutionary process in the development of the consciousness raising process and the black community. I think the point that you brought out that that talks about the the the activist involvement that emerged out of the civil rights movement of the 60s logically would flow into the type of sophistication and awareness of the political process that we seem to be seeing take shape around the country today. I'd like to focus on that particular point a little bit further because I think that there may be more in that that we can discuss. For example.
The issues in the 60s for example most of us now I'm sort of dating myself right now because I'm a product of the 60s myself that I but the issues of the 60s seem to deal with certain basic services on a very elemental level elementary level. You know the right to be able to have equal accommodations to services the right to have equal opportunity for education the right to have a fair chance to get a decent job. Do you see that the the the the the process of raising these issues and therefore identifying the system which which would would. Give the tools necessary to bring about those changes was primarily a political process. Do you see that that that activist process logically pushed people right into the into the. Even though people may not have recognized it at
that time. But do you see that as a process that just by the nature of carrying out the process put people in the political arena so that that was a real for a mass political movement that we might have been involved in. I would concur with that. I think that. I mean everything is political. We've heard that time and time again but when you really begin to look at what we were trying to do was to focus attention on the discrepancies in the inequities that blacks and other minorities were faced with that were full citizens of this country on paper but in reality were second class citizens and we did that through massive demonstrations. We did that to focusing attention in ways that dealt with the whole issue of equal access and dealt with the issue of civil and human rights
that were justified and theoretically were provided everyone the reality was that it was simply not the case for minorities and particularly blacks. That was a very significant political movement if you will. I think that any major movement by its very nature is political because the political process is a people process. It's a it's a change in the social values mores directions that a town a city a state or a country may be moving in and that change with brings about. New legislation whether it brings about various protections for consumers whatever it may be is a political process because it impacts legislatively it impacts in terms of the point of process.
So it's all it's all political. I think though that what we've seen in the last few years. Is people beginning to recognize that the participation in the electoral process can be much more substantial than it has been in the past and it's like anything I think that once you see some some some gain from your involvement then you begin to see more relevance in the involvement. And for example and in my election this is my first term on the Boston City Council. Prior to my tenure there's been a vacuum of a period of 10 years where there was no minority representation at all on the legislative branch of city government in Boston before me was tarmac and who was now the
heading The legal department with the NAACP now for 10 years. So on the tenth anniversary of his hiatus I was elected in not only I was elected but Jim Maguire was elected to Boston School Committee in conjunction with John O'Bryant. So people began to see some positive change and began to see that the effort of going out and registering and going out and voting. Manifesting in some concrete victories that has been further replicated by gains at the congressional level in terms of blacks and other minorities particularly at the municipal level. Chicago I think was probably the bellwether. I think that the phenomenon of Chicago was so unique in
terms of its impact on the city as a whole. And the black vote rallied around Harold Washington in a way that was unprecedented in any urban area in this country. And I just don't know if that effort could ever be replicated again to the extent that it was in Chicago. That was a kind of unique situation but minorities to a large degree are concentrated in major urban areas. I think that you see an increase in participation at the electoral level and people begin to see with that participation that there are more direct spin offs in terms of service delivery in terms of a better more frequent response to meeting the needs of the community. Let me I'd like to if I can focus a little bit on the Chicago election and the the the mayoral race that's going to be
coming up in Philadelphia. But before I do that I'd like to talk listening audience to you're listening to black perspectives. University of Massachusetts at Boston. Wu M-B FM ninety one point nine on your listening dial. And I'm discussing black political processes with city councilman Bruce Boling from the city of Boston today. I'd like to focus back on the question of Chicago because there were a lot of discussions a lot of a lot of very intense and heated debates that were going on on the significance of the Chicago election. On the one hand you had a group of people who were saying that should Washington and when the initial. Primary to two to be the Democratic candidate that he would have then would the would the Democratic machine be able to deliver for a black candidate. There were many people who said that the machine would
not support a black candidate even no blacks have historically since the New Deal been almost. Unanimous in their support for Democratic candidates. So that was a big controversial question about whether in point of fact the Democratic Party could deliver to blacks. There was the other secondary issue that the the fundamental differences primarily based on race between blacks and whites would be more significant then the party politics themselves. And that so that it would come down to a racial matter so that the Republican candidate who even though they hadn't elected a Republican in Chicago in over 40 years stood a good many people believe just simply on the racial lines stood a good chance of getting elected and that the party politics basically were going to go out the window. How do you mean. Well obviously this is all hindsight now we know that that Washington was able to muster. I think it was over 85 percent of the black vote but he did capture a significant amount of the of
the white vote without which he could not have been elected. How does that. What is the implications of that from from your perspective how do you see all of that fitting together if at all. Well I think that the issue of race. Particularly when one seat seeks the chief executive of a major urban area is is a factor here. In Washington. Take issue with you in this regard. Did not you see significant support we see something like 18 percent of the total white vote that was cast. And. And for in the race where a city historically has had Democratic mayors against unknown
Republican opponent. Who. By all purposes should not have received any more than about 30 35 percent of the vote yet. You saw a fairly close election. So race was a significant factor in the Chicago mayoral race and there was a fair degree of mudslinging on both sides in that regard. Chicago Harold Washington received just a little under 20 percent of the white vote that was cast in Philadelphia with Wilson good. We had two completely different races. One was significant racial overtones significant building on both sides just a very uncomfortable feeling about the electoral process overall in Chicago and it was totally
the opposite in Philadelphia very mainstream candidates significant support within the white community within the business community within the black community. Yet Wilson good in the primary received about one of every four white votes that were cast and received about 25 percent of the total white vote that was cast compared to how Washington who received one of five. So there was only about a five percentage point difference between the race in Chicago and the race in Philadelphia. So in that regard it seems to me that race is still a significant factor. And when one sees the mayoral position in a major urban area and I think that that can't be discounted some will look at that very favorably and some will
look at it as unfavorable. Well as I said at the at the outset of our show and we're going to be doing a two part discussion with you but a three part overall series will do concluding segment we'll try to synthesize all of the discussions that we're having. Today we're focusing on the national political arena within which blacks are operating and I think that the analysis that you bring to this issue now that is is the evolutionary in the historical events which seem to have brought us to where we are now in 1983 and then focusing more on these particular two races that I go that have just one that's still continuing in Philadelphia in the race that just was recently concluded in Chicago can teach us a lot. I think that to the point that you're focusing on that race still is a very significant factor in politics in the United States. I think if we can agree on anything that that seems to be a preeminent fact in that
regardless of the dynamics of how the race is run or the qualifications of the candidates that are running it seems as though race still is a very significant factor in the minds of black voters who overwhelmingly seem to support black candidates and white voters who seem to overwhelmingly support. White voters. However in both groups there seems to be some spillover. There are blacks who do support white candidates. Clearly there are whites who support black candidates. And I'm wondering as we look at this international arena where do you see this all heading. What do you see continued evolution in the awareness of all voters in the United States as they participate in this. DEMICK to quote unquote democratic process I think that the level of awareness will increase. The reason I'm made reference to race is being a factor is because there is still a perception by
a lot of whites that blacks couldn't want to see that blacks can't function and function effectively in a chief executive position. And that's part of the whole fabric of the lingering racism from an institutional perspective in this country. So there's no getting away from that. The fact that you see somebody I mean the physical characteristic in and of itself you see somebody the first thing you notice that a man is a woman. White black brown tall or whatever but you can't escape the fact that of all or someone's color. I mean just the physical characteristic that's very outstanding and is one of the first things you see probably beyond one's gender. So you know I just don't think that I think people have mixed feelings about what they see and what that means.
The assumption is that no one would question a white male in terms of being able to function in a chief executive position. But there's a question in some regards as it relates to minorities is a question in some regards as relates to women. Would it be too emotional for the job when things of that nature. So I think there's some physical characteristics that are inescapable and that that tend to act as significant factors in forming opinions and judgments about the capabilities. I'd like to conclude this interview on that note right there because I think that that basically does set the tone for the discussion that we'll be setting out on next week. I'd like to thank you very much for agreeing to come with us. And in agreeing to appear on our show I'd like to tell a listening audience that you've been listening tonight to black perspectives. Be sure to listen next week we'll be concluding our interview with
Black Perspectives
Blacks in Politics
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Boston City Councilor Bruce Bolling joins host Charles Desmond to discuss black people in politics. Topics discussed include the resurgence of voter registration/education programs in the black community, the relationship between black activism in the 1960s and current political involvement by black people; the potential for a black presidential candidate in 1984, the impact of race in on U.S. electoral politics, and the elections of mayors Harold Washington in Chicago and W. Wilson Goode in Philadelphia, the first black people elected to lead their respective cities.
Black Perspectives is a public affairs talk show featuring in depth conversations about issues of interest to the African American community.
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Race and Ethnicity
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Politics and Government
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: Bolling, Bruce C., 1945-2012
Copyright Holder: WUMB-FM
Host: Desmond, Charles
Producer: Pierre Louis, Gary
Producing Organization: WUMB
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: BP28-1983 (WUMB)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Generation: Original
Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “Black Perspectives; Blacks in Politics,” 1983-11-16, WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020,
MLA: “Black Perspectives; Blacks in Politics.” 1983-11-16. WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <>.
APA: Black Perspectives; Blacks in Politics. Boston, MA: WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from