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Break With Tokenism

Hartford Courant Editorial

July 21, 2011

For years, Hartford Democrats have nominated two Latinos, two African Americans and two whites as their slate of candidates for the city council. This way of equally apportioning political power according to skin color and ethnic background has no doubt squelched outbreaks of racial discord among city politicians over time.

But it is profoundly undemocratic - giving disproportionately more representation to white politicians, for example - and a way of doing business that's behind the times.

When Democrats in the overwhelmingly Democratic city gather for their nominating convention for city offices tonight, is it possible that this shopworn racial formula will be cast aside? We hope so.

Observers note that in this municipal election year, if the candidates with the strongest pre-convention support get endorsed, the racial makeup of the party slate would not be two-two-two but instead three African Americans, two Latinos and one white member.

Why shouldn't such a breakdown prevail if each candidate can persuade the convention that he or she is among the six best candidates, regardless of race or ethnic background?

State Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, a local Democratic activist, wants to stick with tradition: "Why give more power to one community vs. another?" she asked. "Everybody has the same representation, and I think we should stick with that."

But throughout the years, not everyone has earned a place on the ticket. Some have gotten the edge simply because of skin color or ethnic background.

Town committee member Julio Concepcion is right in calling the old two-two-two formula "outdated," and in arguing that Hartford "is in a place where it needs the six best candidates regardless of their race."

Tokenism's time is past.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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