Short Take: The Boston Uninvited

Maybe it’s like the “reply all” error, where a private note intended for one person ends up in the hands of the very people you didn’t want to see it. Or maybe it was that Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s city council relations director, Denise DosSantos, didn’t appreciate the virtues of segregation. Either way, the email went out, and so too did the cat from the bag.

A Wu administration official, on behalf of the mayor, mistakenly sent all Boston city councilors an email Tuesday inviting them to a holiday party that was meant exclusively for “electeds of color,” prompting an apology and mixed reactions.

Having made the mistake, there were two things to be done. One, hold the party with everyone invited, intentionally or not, welcome as a Boston City Councilor. Or two, tell the “elected of no color” that they are uninvited.

Approximately 15 minutes later, however, DosSantos sent out a follow-up email to city councilors, apologizing for the prior email, which was apparently only meant for those who were invited. The body includes seven white councilors and six of color.

“I wanted to apologize for my previous email regarding a Holiday Party for tomorrow,” DosSantos, a Cape Verdean Black woman, wrote. “I did send that to everyone by accident, and I apologize if my email may have offended or came across as so. Sorry for any confusion this may have caused.”

Of course, the problem wasn’t with the email as much as with the segregated party for government officials. The invited “electeds” didn’t see a problem at all.

Councilor Brian Worrell, who is Black and was vying for the Council presidency before tentatively agreeing to become the body’s vice president next term, defended the invite, however, saying that the holiday party is simply another example of reflecting “all kinds of specific groups” in city government.

“We make space and spaces for all kinds of specific groups in the city and city government,” Worrell said in a statement. “This is no different, and the Elected Officials of Color has been around for more than a decade.”

While there appears to be some dispute as to how long it’s been happening, does “making spaces” fit racial segregation, as the KKK might ask?

In an email to DosSantos and her colleagues, Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who describes herself as an African immigrant and Muslim-American woman, was more candid, saying that there is “no need for apologies at all.”

“Your email should not offend anyone and there is absolutely no confusion,” Fernandes Anderson wrote. “Just like there are groups that meet based on shared interests or cultural backgrounds, it’s completely natural for elected officials of color to gather for a holiday celebration.”

Is it really “completely natural” to prefer your own kind, councilor Fernandez? Is race the same as “electeds who play pickleball”? And if it were “natural,” why conceal it from “elected with no color,” not to mention the people of Boston who might not be aware of their government being racially segregated?

Of course, there is a difference, if you’re inclined to accept the premise that racism is a one-way street, only bad when used by oppressors and entirely understandable and benign when used by the oppressed. But then, this isn’t a college affinity club, but the government of Boston, and a party thrown by its mayor with the exclusion of people who don’t make the racial cut. What could be wrong with that?

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