King, as in mayor

By TOM SHEEHAN  |  July 13, 2009

In fact, many of the issues King has raised so far are identical to those addressed by his opponents—crime, unemployment, the city's "livability," the need for development in the neighborhoods instead of downtown. Some issues, like the death of rent control scheduled for the end of the year, have remained his exclusively, but even where the issues are the same, King's approach is often markedly sharper than his opponents'. He lays the blame for the recent violence in the city—the Roxbury murders, the Brighton rapes and the Blue Hill Avenue stonings—squarely on the doorstep of White's administration.

"This administration in 12 years has buried its head in the sand and has not taken one meaningful stand on issues of crime and violence in this city," he told some supporters last week. "When you have the level of violence in this city, it is because you have an administration that countenances it." So far as we know, he is the only candidate who has termed as "racial" the Blue Hill Avenue incidents, in which black youths have stoned cars driven by whites and then robbed the motorists, and he has criticized Boston Police Superintendent Earl Bolt, a black, for saying otherwise. "That's crazy,' he said of Bolt's characterization of the stonings. "We have to hone it down and face reality."

In the South End, where he is enormously popular, and in the black community as well, what King has to say during the campaign will be accorded a respectful hearing. But even his most ardent supporters fear he will have a hard time getting his message across to the rest of the city's populace. "I think the toughest issue his candidacy faces," said one long-time associate, "is the political capital he's spent through the years, the image he's accumulated." This image is one of militancy reinforced by his very size (6-foot-5), his style of dress (dashikis, overalls, pendants), and his facial appearance (bushy beard, shaved head, glaring eyes). It is an image that might make him a drawing card on the radical-chic cocktail-party circuit but is not guaranteed to gain him admittance to West Roxbury coffee klatches with the girls. And they vote more.

* * *

Even though the desire for change can result in conflict or confrontation, I believe they are a necessary part of the process to achieve change . . . . The current confrontations between men and women, black and white, have-nots and have-a-lots must be seen as vital to the development of near-ultimate political form and community.

-King, in his MIT memo

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    To begin with, I'd like to set down the political and ideological frame of reference under which I try to live.
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    This article originally appeared in the July 24, 1973 issue of the Boston Phoenix.

 See all articles by: TOM SHEEHAN