The Weakness of Black Politics

The Weakness of Black Politics

Since the 1950s the politics of New York blacks has been characterized by weakness and factional division. Compared with the political gains of blacks in cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit, black politics in New York is marked by low influence and a marginal presence) Several features of black New York’s politics demonstrate this weak political incorporation: (1) the failure to elect a black mayor, to mount a serious black mayoral challenge, or to play a decisive role in a successful mayoral coalition; (2) the absence of a viable black presence in New York City’s dominant decision-making bodies; and (3) a faction-ridden black leadership.

Yet other aspects of black New York’s political position do not by themselves indicate weakness. Twenty-five percent of the city’s population is black, and blacks have seven of the thirty-five city council seats (20 percent). There is one black borough president, David Dinkins, for Manhattan, who was elected in 1985. Dinkins sits on the eight-member Board of Estimate, a mayor-dominated body that decides on the city’s contracts, appropriations, land use, and other such matters. One key agency head is black, Benjamin Ward, commissioner of police. State and national officials
elected out of New York City are also part of black New York’s political profile; these include four of fourteen congressional seats (27 percent), 13 of 60 state assembly seats (21 percent), and four of twenty-five state senate seats (16 percent).

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