Lydia Lowe doesn’t speak for me

I don’t live in the Second Suffolk District, where a heated battle is underway between incumbent State Senator Diane Wilkerson and challenger Sonia Chang-Diaz, the challenger who won the Democratic nomination last week. I have no standing to evaluate whether Wilkerson or Chang-Diaz is more capable of representing that District’s needs.

However, as a Chinese-American, I do feel strongly disserved by the executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association, Lydia Lowe, who is quoted in the Bay State Banner as saying, “I think progressive whites don’t care about what people of color want or who they see as their leaders.”

This is a disgraceful show of divisive 70s-style racial politics that we simply don’t need at this moment in history. Progressive (and not-so-progressive) whites — indeed people of all races — have shown that they do care about other people, of other races. I fundamentally and profoundly disagree with the sentiment that progressive whites are selling out their non-white brethren. If anything, history has repeatedly shown us that progressive whites have been essential to the advancement of so many issues of importance to minorities, whether civil rights, affirmative action, or immigration reform.

Like a certain black pastor who recently received nationwide notoriety, Lydia Lowe’s years of fighting for the interests of Chinatown and the Chinese-American community may have, at the same time, given her a sadly frozen view of race relations. Diane Wilkerson’s own preferred candidate for President chastised his former pastor: “The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made… But what we know — what we have seen – is that America can change.”

The idea that whites in Jamaica Plain are selling out their non-white neighbors because of race is reprehensible and disgusting. Lydia Lowe and her organization may win a tactical victory if her candidate returns to the Senate. But by playing the race card — against a woman who’s mixed white, Latina, and Chinese, no less — she’ll be hurting the long-term interests of her own constituency, pushing away the very people who have been a cornerstone of political success any time minorities have tried to attain success beyond our own boundaries.

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6 thoughts on “Lydia Lowe doesn’t speak for me

  1. Well, she does have a point that there can be no reason other than racism for liberal whites to very much want to be represented by someone who does not continually keep racking up major campaign violations and in fact has spent time incarcerated.

    Oh wait … no, scratch that. I can think of a couple reasons.

  2. I am not unsympathetic to Sen. Wilkerson; this article presents several ways of viewing her history of ethical issues as being, quite possible, a product of being heavily scrutinized. This is not my district and therefore it’s not my place to judge who is more or less qualified to represent it.

    But the way the old-time elites are playing up the racial issues has my suspicions raised. Especially a lot of the conspiracy-leaning arguments that Chang-Diaz is some kind of Manchurian candidate for more sinister forces.

  3. Gene,

    I am so glad you shared such a healthy perspective. I do live in the district, I am Latina and I know both Lydia and both candidates personally. Sonia Chang-Diaz ran a clean and vibrant, grassroots campaign and won, why is it so hard for folks to grasp. She did not use negative tactics but rather focused on her voter contact.

    In addition, culture identity is an issue each individual deals with on a personal basis but not one that should scrutinized by others. Sonia Chang-Diaz has been very open about her ethnic background and has not never claimed to be someone she is not. It is offensive, to me as a young voter, to see my elders engage in this type of divisive behavior. My hope is that we can move forward in progress and give new leaders an opportunity to be a part of the political process.

  4. I agree. I do not feel race should be paraded as an issue. It is useful in political campaigns to divide and conquer. Some of us see through it but all of us are affected by it nontheless. Wilkerson served he community well, she has had some personal problems, but she does a fantastic job representing her constituants. I think its impressive to see someone function well despite personal problems. This is not a weakness, this is a strength. My only hope is that people, as many of you have on this board, take a balanced approach to evaluation of her competence and not be swayed by unvetted lies and hatred. To deny however, that there may be sinister forces behind the attacks is to stick your head in the sand. Either way, let her accomplishments speak for themselves. Don’t knock her for struggling personally. Anyone at any point may encounter those. Search for yourself. Most of the negative attacks are against Wilkerson not Diaz. The most anyone has said is that Diaz is white. When in American History is it an insult to be considered white? To her supporters point, the candidate should be a candidate for all and not just the non-whites. I believe Wilkerson has been the candidate for all and will continue to be if elected.

  5. “black guy” : I’m not in a position to evaluate either Wilkerson’s nor Chang-Diaz’s qualifications, and even if I were, this is not my district and therefore not my place to say much about either. What bothers me is both the racialization of this contest as well as the reflexive moves some advocates have made to speak “on behalf” of a group based on that group’s race.

    I take issue with what appears to be some sort of conspiracy theory brewing around Chang-Diaz and the implication that she’s somehow a “front” for “outside forces” in the district. This is strongly implied by Lydia Lowe, it’s been almost explicitly argued by other Wilkerson supporters, and I’ve read the sentiment in many blogs and discussion groups. These attacks that imply that sinister, unknown, outside forces are “behind” the Chang-Diaz race are disturbingly similar to the underhanded attacks being made on Barack Obama by the McCain campaign. “Who is Barack Obama?” McCain asks, stirring up white supremacist responses. I hope the same dynamic is not playing out in Boston right now.

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