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Ethnic politics in the New Boston

Melvin B. Miller

The election for mayor of Boston is over. Now the political pundits prepare their analyses on the process. A common theme is what might have been the result if the six minority candidates had decided to organize their efforts around one or two of them. The others would drop out and await later political opportunities.

This perspective on ethnic politics assumes that the so-called minorities have the same solidarity that has catapulted the Irish to political prominence in Boston. That is unlikely since the Irish share so much in common. Those from the Republic of Ireland speak the same language, have the same religion, prefer the same food and have emigrated from a small country with a population of only about 4.6 million.

On the other hand, the so-called minority candidates are quite diverse. They do not share a common religion. Their families have not emigrated from the same country. They have different native languages. One is Puerto Rican, another is Cape Verdean, another’s family is from Barbados. What unifies those candidates enough to suggest that they should sacrifice so that one of them can be elected mayor?

The answer to that question is disturbing. They know that Euro-Americans classify them as non-white, and they are then all subject to racial discrimination. Despite their ethnic differences they are able to cooperate for what they perceive to be the common good. However, to unify in the mayor’s race would have been an extremely sophisticated strategy.

Marty Walsh now has the opportunity to move beyond petty parochialism and develop an administration that is so representative of the various ethnic groups in Boston that no one will have any reason to believe that their legitimate interests are being ignored.

Maybe that is what is meant by the New Boston.