Mayor Sharpe James of Newark has met repeatedly with Essex County College officials over the past few months to discuss a teaching job. He has tossed out the names of several potential successors, and this week, two city officials said that a "legacy committee" to honor his achievements had already been formed.
But is Mr. James, after 35 years of running for office and never losing, really ready to retire?
We're compelled to cite CUNY Political Science Professor Jerry G. Watts recent piece in Blackcommentator.com titled "What Use are Black Mayors?":
Part of the problem is that too many black political scientists continue to treat black elected officials as if they are part of an insurgent political formation. This is nonsense. Regardless of their rhetoric, black elected officials are, in varying degrees, part of the political establishment. I remember when Andy Young used to claim that black elected mayors were the vanguard of the continuing civil rights movement. Young’s utter BS should have been seen for the self-serving nonsense that it was. A black mayor of a city today is no more insurgent than I am as a bourgeois black academic in a predominantly white academic setting. Both of us may try to claim to that our personal advancement is a brick hurled against an entrenched racism. Both of us would be guilty of manipulating race to mask our self-interested actions.
Such is the case with Mr. James, and perhaps he (and others) should examine Watts piece. We're not making any endorsement of James' opponent - the 36 year old Councilman Corey Booker - either, even though we are eager to see a shuffling of the "old" Black political guard and a transition into the "new." Yet, the African American electorate should not get fooled into authenticity assumptions based on the vigor of youth, just as we've been fooled before based simply on the similar complexions of high profile Black candidates.
But, we must say, a city like Newark is in need of serious change. Maintaining the same leadership for so many years - with little in the way of substantive results - seems a little despotic. There's more to being a Black Mayor than just being Black.