When The Rules Are Fair But The Game Isn’t
I wish I could take credit for this title but I can’t. It's stolen from a great article that I highly recommend by Muktha Jost, Edward Whitfield, and Mark Jost and it eerily speaks to the political climate unfolding here in Delray Beach and many other cities.
A quick history lesson: America was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all- (unless you were a person of color in which case those principles did not apply). Eventually, the “rules” were changed to include everyone and the common assumption became that the “game” is fair and equal regardless of the color of your skin.
A quick update...although the “rules” now provide for equal opportunity, the actual “game” is far from fair. The core issues of inequality across every major system (education, health, wealth, housing, etc) are all related to matters of race, social justice, and democratic equality but these issues are not understood or accepted as legitimate by all those that think we live in a “color-blind” society. Yes...less people “see color” but our systems still do- very clearly.
People of Color understand institutional racism on a gut level. Realistically, a five year old child of Color understands this viscerally more than I, as a White person, ever could. If only we could take their word for it. God forbid we allow people to be an expert in their own experience.
Back to Delray (but applicable everywhere), we have a White man running for a commission seat that since 1968 has been reserved for a person of color. He entered the race 5 days before a deadline with enough signatures and access to resources to qualify and likely win. This should really show us all what White Advantage looks like. It should also show us why a reserved seat is so important.
Yes, it’s true. The “rules” are fair...anyone can run for any seat. And I’m hearing this everywhere...color shouldn’t matter….we should vote on experience... we should vote for expertise. Of course we should. People of Color should be able to run and compete for any seat, against any incumbent they feel isn’t serving Delray Beach and vice versa. But that brings us back to the title- The “rules” are fair, but the “game” isn’t.
The reality is Delray’s community of Color, like most communities of Color, is marginalized. They were redlined, divested in, and the list goes on. They were not allowed to play the “game”, eventually allowed to enter the “game” late, and when they did enter Boardwalk and Park Place were already bought and had hotels on them.
In other words, White people started playing a long time ago. They got a head start and now have access to networks of advantage for power and resources that communities of Color don’t have. They mobilize those networks for campaign contributions that ultimately determine who wins elections.You pay to play and that largely advantages White people and their access.
If you value diversity, diversity of opinion, diversity in perspective, the strength diversity brings to good decision making, and want a dynamic city with economic accessibility for all- you should support a reserved seat. Our communities of Color don’t have access to the same networks of advantage. They can’t mobilize the same resources. They can’t compete with those who can, even if the candidates of Color are more qualified, more representative, and more ethical. Diversity makes us all stronger and we have to make space for everyone to have a seat at the table.
Now, has the reserved seat always done right by the community, no. Has representation been abused for power, sure. But let The Set community resolve that on its own. Let the community grow a pipeline of candidates and groom their candidates. Don’t make decisions for The Set, take power from it, paternalize it, or take it out of their hands completely by taking the seat. Trust community knows best and will figure out how to protect its best interest. As outsiders our role is to support.
To the candidate running for seat 4… If you didn’t like how the incumbent was serving, you could have used your advantage to support the challenging candidate of color in securing the seat. If you didn’t think they were capable enough, you could have supported the community in putting up another candidate. You could have also just run for a different seat.
I agree with most, this process should be “colorblind”. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Until both the “rules” and “game” are fair, we have to protect ourselves from going backwards. We can do better Delray Beach.
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