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Best of Boston 2009

Black power

Letters to the Boston editor, March 20, 2009
By BOSTON PHOENIX LETTERS  |  March 19, 2009

Brooding about whether Barack Obama would have become president if he had been a more “traditionally black candidate,” i.e., a descendant of slaves, is a self-indulgence that trivializes the enormity of what has occurred. A brown-skinned man with African heritage turned convention on its head, waged a masterful campaign, won the presidency, and showed that the American mindset has changed.

His mother was white, yet with the skin color he bears there is little doubt Obama knew the same sting of racial prejudice as a descendant of slaves. Obama may have been a gifted student at universities in New York and Cambridge and a law professor in Chicago, but he also walked the streets of those cities where, to strangers, he held the identity of black male. He didn’t talk about it publicly, but I imagine he knows the feeling of being avoided on sidewalks, followed around in stores, and jeered at by street punks. Now he is the most powerful leader on the planet. His election represents a colossal societal shift that we should be celebrating, not trying to debunk.

Jeff Stone

New voters on the bloc
David S. Bernstein’s article provides some words of advice to Sam Yoon’s campaign. Among them: “Bostonians must care enough to vote.” This, Bernstein claims, is the most important key to a possible Yoon victory during the mayoral elections.

It is interesting that some political observers, indicated in the article, would state that so-called New Bostonians do not vote. If one quickly examines voter-turnout statistics in the February 6 Metro article “Minority Vote Soars in Hub,” one can directly observe Chinatown’s 24.6 percent voter-turnout increase in the 2008 presidential elections. This was the second-highest increase in the city.

Furthermore, Chinatown’s turnout exceeded the city’s average. This is also true of the Vietnamese-American communities. This indicates a significant shift in the way Boston will have to view politics.

Yoon’s campaign will probably depend on the voter turnout of communities of color, such as Chinatown. Yet there is an even deeper problem facing Chinatown’s voters. During the presidential elections, the majority of these voters were not only elderly, but also Chinese-speaking citizens. Much of this was largely due to the availability of bilingual ballots Boston had been federally required to produce, as well as to the voter-education work being done through community organizations. Unfortunately, this agreement has expired.

Elderly Chinese-American voters depend on the translation of ballots in order to participate in the political process. Given that this bill affects both Chinese- and Vietnamese-American communities, both communities are currently fighting for their basic voting rights.

This strikes an even deeper question: will these citizens even have the ability to vote for the mayoral candidate of their choice? Or, perhaps a timelier question concerning the special elections to fill Sal DiMasi’s seat: will they even be able to vote for the very person who will be representing their district?

Charles Kim
The Chinese Progressive Association

Art entitlement
Who is this arrogant guy who says his “artist friends” are leaving town because they can’t plaster their stuff anywhere they want to? What’s this about Boston’s “cultural conservatism” driving out a “generation of creative people?” The illustrations in your article show that Neelon is probably a talented artist. You report that he shows in museums and galleries, has published his work in magazines and books, and has put up his art in public places. What more does he want? Is he artistically unfulfilled if he can’t put his art on my front door? Or maybe he would like to put a tattoo on my forehead? “Street art” where it is not wanted is just plain old graffiti vandalism. Neelon seems to feel the world should bow to his art and accept his favors, wherever placed. The rest of us don’t.

Gus Carlson

Related: Can Sam Yoon win?, He's number three, Free for all, More more >
  Topics: Letters , African-American, Barack Obama, DAVID S. BERNSTEIN,  More more >
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Re: New Voters on the Bloc
New Bostonians do vote, as the prior writer pointed out, with Chinatown logging one of the highest increases in voter turnout in the city.  It is to the credit of Mayor Menino and Elections Commissioner Gerry Cuddyer that Boston has in fact exceeded the requirements of the feds in providing fully bilingual ballots (including transliteration of names into Chinese characters, to allow elderly voters to decipher candidate names) and aggressively recruiting bilingual poll workers for the major languages spoken in the city.  Boston has sent a Home Rule Petition to the legislature asking that we continue fully bilingual Chinese and Vietnamese ballots.  The bill went nowhere last year due to Secretary Galvin's opposition to including the Chinese transliteration of candidate names next to the English names.  Now is the time to pass the Home Rule Petition and safeguard Asian American voting rights.
By lydialowe on 03/20/2009 at 11:30:18

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