Well, some people aren't going to like this column, but what's new? I think I have found a good female candidate for the next election for the office of Brooklyn borough president. If she runs and wins, then history will be made, since she will be the first female borough president of Brooklyn.
In 2006 we finally got a female NYC council speaker in Christine Quinn; and I know that for the forces of empowerment, inclusion and diversity, she fits two bills: she is also a lesbian. Fine.
I know we have 33 men and 18 women presently in the city council, and I suspect this represents the highest number of women elected in the council's history (358 years next February).
Presently, of the five borough presidents, only one is female: Helen Marshall/Queens. We have no female District Attorney in any of the five boroughs. The mayor, public advocate and comptroller are all male. We have never had a female mayor ever. My research also shows me that Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island have never elected a female to fill the boro-prez spot. I am sure Gatemouth can enlighten us as to the veracity of this research.
So what's my point? Well, I think we -as a people- need to (re)commit to empowerment, inclusion and diversity: this must become an ideal. It must be an objective toward which we should strive politically and otherwise. And by all this I mean gender equality, racial equality, and sensitivity to ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, different religious views/values and such. In places where there may be potential for conflict, we can always seek compromises, discussion and mutual-agreement.
In general, whenever I try to discuss issues around empowerment, inclusion and diversity there is usually some push-back from males: especially white males. This appears to be disturbing to many of them. And no matter how much you quote “we hold these truths to be self-evident....” etcetera, it often falls on the deliberately deafened ears of too many.
Some feel that the Civil Rights Act (1964) supplemented the 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd and 26th amendments to the Constitution; and when combined they all should suffice in dealing with issues around diversity, equality, gender-discrimination, racism, ostracism, inclusion, empowerment and the like. In theory that's alright I guess: but in reality, plaguing inequities still exist in US society even today- though probably not as bad as in previous years.
Look, it's not incidental, accidental or coincidental that we have never had a woman as president or vice-president, in this country. For decades now, women have won the highest office in lands (and elections) all over the world. In that regard we are behind many countries in the UN. It's no accident that we have only had one mulatto in the position of president either. In this country, there are reactionary forces at work, aiming to maintain inequality in all areas of human endeavor.
It's also no accident that after 211 years, we have only had four females on the Supreme Court- with male appointees outnumbering females by almost thirty to one. And with only two black-males ever sitting there; with no Asians, no Native-Americans, no East Indians, no Muslims, nor other ethnic, racial, nationalistic or religious minorities either.
It is no coincidence that so many positions in politics and business appear to be exclusively male, and resemble the Supreme Court pattern/history (overwhelmingly white-male-domination). Of the top one thousand highest earning companies in the USA over 96% are headed by white males.
There are proven and demonstrable systematic patterns of racial discrimination and gender exclusion still in existence today. We need to be wary of this and address it at the same time.
Look at all who hold the top positions (wages-wise and power-wise) in federal, state and city jobs. Look at all the discrimination in the banking/finance industry. Look at all the horrible exclusionary practices in housing and real estate. Look at all the issues around equality in economic development. Look at all the other inequities in this society. We must do some different things. We must try some different arrangements and likewise personnel.
In Brooklyn we have never had a female borough president. We have had one female district attorney (Elizabeth Holtzman). She was also the youngest person elected to Congress in 1973 and became the only female city comptroller ever elected (1990).
In 1977 Carol Bellamy became the first woman elected to city-wide office, when she won the election for City Council President. This position was later retitled Public Advocate after the City Charter was revised in 1991.
In 1964 Constance Motley Baker -who has Caribbean ancestry similar to that of our present governor David Paterson- became the first black woman elected to the New York state senate. The following year she became Manhattan's first female Borough President. One year later she was the first black female judge on a federal bench (Southern District of New York). She later served as chief judge in 1982.
Look, given the diversity in our demographics, New York City should lead the country in terms of equality, empowerment, inclusion, power-sharing and the like. One hundred years before Rosa Parks, there was a black female New Yorker named Elizabeth Jennings. Ms. Jennings was forcibly ejected from the Third Avenue Railway Line in 1854 and sued the city. She won; and by winning she ended discrimination in public transportation in New York.
Don't let anyone tell you that New York city residents aren't pioneers when it comes to social justice, equality, empowerment, inclusion and civil rights for all. In 1939 Mayor Fiorello La Guardia appointed Jane Bolin as the first black female to what is now known as the the Family Court. In 2002 Doris Ling-Cohan was elected as the first Asian-American to the State Supreme Court. And of course we all know about Nydia Velasquez who was elected to Congress in 1992, as the first Puerto Rican woman to the House of Representatives.
I am told that council member Letitia “Tish” James wants to run for the position of Brooklyn District Attorney next time around, to replace the ailing and retiring Charles Hynes. If all this is true then I commend her spunk and will support her all the way. We need more women in the corridors of power: it's that simple.
With all this as a backdrop let me say that the female district leader of the 44th Assembly District should run for Brooklyn's borough presidency next time around. Her name is Lori Citron Knipel. She is an attorney by profession and has held her leadership post for about 20 years now. Her husband is a sitting judge in the Brooklyn court system, and she has run for public office before. In 2002 she lost to Kevin Parker in the 21st senatorial district primary election. A wise man once said that the best way to succeed is by increasing your failure rate; Lori should give it another shot.
This is a woman who gets along well with people of all races, colors, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, nationalities and the like. She is a bona-fide political progressive who is Brooklyn born and bred. She once worked in the state assembly -in the speaker's office. She is a political veteran par excellence despite her relative youthfulness. Lori will make a fine boro-prez. I hope she runs.
Stay tuned-in folks.