Reporting Charlie Langton
DETROIT (Talk Radio 1270) Is the job of Detroit mayor fit only for a black man? It’s a question in the air as Mike Duggan, former prosecutor, Wayne County official and CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, dips his toes in the political pool.
“Is he electable?” Charlie Langton asked on the 1270 Talk Radio morning show. Duggan recently moved from the suburbs to Detroit’s Palmer Woods, sparking rumors he’s ready to challenge Mayor Dave Bing. The last white Detroit mayor was Roman Gribbs, unseated by fiery Coleman Young in 1974.
Langton took on that topic with Nolan Finley of the Detroit News and activist Rev. Charles Williams in the wake of Finley’s controversial column that asked if Detroit would ever elect a white mayor.
“I think a lot of factors have to come together…It would be a challenge,” Finley said about Duggan’s chances. “I don’t think it’s a cake walk for him. He is an excellent political operator, organizer. He’s got a presence in the city, a pretty strong presence in the city. He’s been doing some of the things you need to do. He might me. I talked to a whole lot of people in writing this article and nobody seemed to discount him too much.”
Williams disagreed, saying people in Detroit, where 90 percent of residents are black, want a black mayor — and that’s OK.
“I believe that culturally if a group of folks want to vote for somebody who they’re culturally connected to, racially connected to, there is nothing wrong with that,” Williams said. “And that is not being racist, and that is not being separatist, it’s just voting for the person who you feel can represent you the best.”
Williams also said he would not vote for Duggan because “there are enough African-American, qualified people to run the city of Detroit.”
“But there’s a black man running the country right now!” Langton said.
“Some would say he’s black, some would say he’s not,” Williams responded.
Williams also complained Finley’s column “had a racist edge” to which the reporter said, “You’ve got a guy who says he’s running for mayor, this is a city that hasn’t had a serious white candidate for mayor in 40 years, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask.”
Finley asked Williams if he had read the column. “I know how to read, even though I’m black, I know how to read,” Williams said.
Finley added he didn’t draw any conclusion about Duggan’s chances in a mayoral race, he only posed the question.
“Let’s be honest here, (Wayne County executives) Ficano and McNamara have been part of a dirty machine for a very long time and they do not get the same type of persecution that African-American elected officials have gotten,” Williams said. “Rewind two years, rewind three years and every time you see Kwame Kilpatrick, you see ‘Kwame Kilpatrick the embattled mayor.’”
“At the end of the day, African-American mayors and city council folks … They do just as well a job as a white man, why would there be a difference between a white man and a black man?” Williams asked.
Mark from Detroit chimed in, saying, “For the past at least 30 years the leadership in Detroit has been incompetent, they just happened to be black … (Kwame Kilpatrick) is a convicted felon … Under your logic, (Barack Obama) shouldn’t be the president because the majority of the country is white.”
Williams said African-Americans have a special love and connection to the city of Detroit because it embraced them when they came up from the South for jobs and opportunities.
“Mike Duggan would not be able to get elected in Detroit, not because he’s white, but because he is a part of what we consider the 1 percent,” Williams said, adding, “He’s not one of those folks at the end of the day who Detroiters can say, ‘He’s been in my community’ … Detroiters want Detroiters.’”
Mike from Detroit disagreed, saying, “Detroiters are not ready for a white mayor, but I can say for myself, I am ready for a white mayor … People need to stop living in the past and get with the program … We’ve been running this city for over 35 years, no progress.”