A new crop of Democratic leaders isn’t afraid to take its own party to task—saying what has been obvious to many black voters and voters of color for years now. The latest is newly elected Boston state Rep. Nika Elugardo, who at a recent panel called out the Democrats for being “straight-up racist.”
Mincing exactly zero words, Elugardo told host Callie Crossley, “What needs to be said in a straightforward way is that the Democratic Party is straight-up racist.”
“The structural racism that we’re talking about dismantling is in the party, and this is one of the reasons why it’s frustrating to be standing up on a stage at a Democratic Party behind speeches being made about Republicans dividing the country,” Elugardo said.
“Here’s the thing: You have 30 minutes of a speech, 30 percent of it is bashing people, 30 percent of it is talking about why we’re unifiers, and then the rest is rhetoric with a couple of sentences thrown in I can actually clap for legitimately,” she added.
That same energy was shared by other black women on the panel, who noted that they received little support from the party during the course of their campaigns. Suffolk County District Attorney-elect Rachael Rollins told the panel that party literature given out to voters during the general election offered a veritable buffet of white candidates—plus Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley (who received little support from the establishment as she faced off against 10-time incumbent Mark Capuano in the primary).
“What’s so beautiful about this moment is that nobody helped, at least me, to get here,” Rollins said. “We don’t owe anyone anything. I report to the voters.”
Boston politicians—y’all are real ones.
For many, the call-out—primarily from Democratic women of color—is long overdue. Not only have the Democrats helped perpetuate racist policy, like redlining and welfare reform, but the party itself has marginalized or ignored candidates and voters of color. A major component of Pressley’s “change can’t wait” message was holding Democrats accountable for their contributions to making Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District “one of the most unequal in America.”
“We should not be engaged in internal debates or conflict about whether or not we are the party of working-class white folks and everyone else. Or debating whether or not we’re the party of jobs and the economy or criminal justice reform. These are the false choices,” Pressley told The Root in September.
Even one of the Democrats’ most prominent political stars, Stacey Abrams, encountered an establishment that was reportedly uneasy about her “appeal” as a single, black female candidate. As Jason Johnson reported for The Root, many white establishment Democrats initially threw their support behind a white candidate, Stacey Evans, in the Georgia governor’s race before Abrams won her primary.
So what does the Massachusetts Democratic Party have to say about Elugardo’s comments? Welp, it’s time to insert a stock answer about being thrilled to work with the party’s new leaders right about now (courtesy of the State House News Service):
“We are working every day to build a more diverse and inclusive Party in Massachusetts, and we always welcome constructive feedback on how we can do that better,” Bickford’s statement said. “While Party bylaws prohibit us from actively supporting candidates in primary elections, we are thrilled with the slate of candidates who were elected on Tuesday, and look forward to working with them to continue fighting for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, communities of color, and working families here in the Commonwealth.”