From empty office towers to massive migrant encampments, Boston has somehow managed to avoid many of the urban messes plaguing the rest of the nation right now. So Mayor Michelle Wu – the first woman and person of colour to lead the city – took it upon herself to create one.
The Harvard-educated mother of two is now at the center of America’s never ending tussle with race and identity when she accidentally invited every member of her City Council to a party intended solely for Council-members who are not white. Wu’s actions would almost be comical if they weren’t so disingenuous, if not downright dangerous.
Small and compact – with numerous universities and a lucrative life-sciences sector dominated by Moderna – Boston is tidy, efficient and rich. But despite that wealth, Boston remains one the most segregated big cities in the nation, with some two-thirds of its black residents crowded into just three city center districts. The fruits of Boston’s tech and pharma boom may have minted hundreds of new millionaires (if not billionaires) but the city’s legacy of racial discord still simmer just beneath the surface waiting for a reason to boil over.
And now thanks to Mayor Wu, those racial divisions have officially infected City Hall. It’s easy to understand why Mayor Wu would host an event solely for Council-members who aren’t white. Wu is young, just 38, educated by the elite, champions arch-progressive issues like wetland protection and transgender rights – and was mentored by none other than even more progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Wu inhabits an elite realm where identity and intersectionality not merely mean something, but mean everything: How you govern, the issues you champion and, it seems, who’s invited to your Holiday events.
What’s most concerning about Wu’s race fail is the sense of secrecy behind it. The only reason we’re talking about it right now is because party invites were accidentally sent to all of the City Council, not just the half dozen who are not white. And despite the furor resulting from this misstep, Wu decided to go through with the event last evening. Like so many woke warriors of her generation, Wu opted to double down rather than opt for contrition and correction.
Mayor Wu is hardly the only social-justice type who believes in the validity of an official event that denies folks access simply because of their race. Minority-only “safe spaces” have become ubiquitous across college campuses and corporations over the past few years. Often they’re camouflaged as “affinity groups” and positioned as vehicles for education and healing. But no jargon – no matter how dense – can deny the implications of such affairs.
For one thing, they reaffirm the notion that people of colour are achieving something – jobs, college admissions, party invites – solely because of their ethnic identity. Unfortunately in this case it’s true. But this thinking is also used to undermine and deny minority achievement – often without merit, but sometimes justifiably. Just look at embattled Harvard Pres. Claudine Gay, who’s now dodging accusations that she not only plagiarised research papers, but only got her job because she’s a woman and black.
So much goes into high-profile positions such as the Mayor of Boston or the Harvard presidency, that it would be silly to reduce it to simply gender and race – or even privilege and nepotism. But at a moment when rampant antisemitism has emerged as real threat to America’s civil order, Mayor Wu’s “party of colour” is a distraction none of us can afford. It’s ill-timed, tone-deaf and completely anachronistic.
The rowdy years of Black Lives Matter are long gone, replaced by marauding throngs chanting for Gaza. And those throngs are disproportionality composed of people of colour. City Halls are supposed to be above such fracas and fray. Here’s hoping the rest of Mayor Wu’s tenure can find safe spaces for all of her colleagues – even those who happen to be white.