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Can the Washington City Paper ever tell more than half of a story? In the most recent anti-Mayor Anthony A. Williams article, “Mum’s the Nerd” (10/24), reporter Felix Gillette critiques the mayor’s apparent silence on race relations in the city. While Gillette is correct in surmising that Williams often avoids discussing race in public, the complaints from the so-called black community leaders on the mayor’s record are wholly one-sided. What about the other racial groups in the city? Are there any whites in D.C. who would prefer that the mayor invoked race ad nauseam? Are there no complaints from the growing Latino population in D.C. about how the city typically ignores their issues?
There are many reasons to criticize Williams, and the City Paper usually does an adequate job of uncovering those that most of us would never consider, but it is time to give the issue of the mayor’s blackness a rest. He is highly educated, he is a nerd, and he is still black. So he can’t shoot a basketball and doesn’t wear kente cloth to community events. We do not require the city’s other black male politicians to demonstrate their athletic prowess or cultural competence.
Race is clearly an issue in D.C., but we have enough problems with high crime, uneven educational opportunities, growing unemployment, fewer health-care choices, and any number of other issues that can be addressed without using race as a wedge. We need to move beyond the west-of-the-park/east-of-the-river, white-vs.-black mentality. Although the mayor’s silent treatment on race is hardly ideal, it is preferable to the former “us against them” alternative.