The recent Democratic primary for Philadelphia's district attorney brought with it a conversation surrounding racial math and the African American community. It stuck with me. I kept wondering: What's the point of this conversation? Why are we talking about racial math?
Some in Philadelphia have established a narrative in which African Americans only vote for African American candidates. This is ridiculous.
The African American community has never voted for any candidate solely because of race. There are only two times where it looked like that happened: the election of Wilson Goode for mayor in 1983 and the reelection of Mayor John Street in 2003. Aside from those campaigns, African Americans in Philadelphia have voted for the candidate who they believe speaks to their issues.
Since the days of Mayor Ed Rendell, you would have trouble finding candidates who could be labeled "the black candidate." Street maintained a relationship with the building trades and used that to his advantage. Do we need to talk about Michael Nutter running as "the black candidate" for mayor? Even me. The target on my back in 2015 when I ran for mayor had nothing to do with race and everything to do with a narrative that was built around education.
Let's stop talking about racial math in elections. It is irrelevant unless we talk about white Philadelphia voting almost exclusively for white candidates.
African Americans in Philadelphia want to talk about race. We want to talk about segregation in our education system, where how you are taught depends on where you live and what you look like. Per a study commissioned by the Civil Rights Project, 24 percent of Philadelphia's black public school students attend schools that are 99 to 100 percent minority schools. The study calls these apartheid schools.
We want to talk about racial math and health-care delivery. Should the quality of health-care services vary between white and black neighborhoods? It certainly does now.
African Americans want to talk about racial math and job readiness. We want access to the economic opportunities afforded to some Philadelphians. How can we instill in our children the fundamental desire to become a productive citizen when so many of us are excluded from Philadelphia's business world?
We want to talk about racial math and the criminal justice system and its impact on the African American community due to decades of over-incarceration.
It has always been a mistake to assume that Philadelphia's African American community uses race as the determining factor in selecting our elected officials. Our community has long been a politically diverse segment of Philadelphia society.
Focusing our attention on racial math and politics diverts us from the very real policy issues that continue to plague this city. Let's talk about racial math from a policy perspective. Let's work to change that racial math and bring equal opportunity to all Philadelphians.