By Jason Schwalm
Although he has absolutely no idea who I am, I have spent thepast 6 months telling almost everyone I know that if Pan-AfricanStudies Professor, Dr. Ricky Jones, offered himself as a mayoralcandidate, I would be his campaign manager.
In my mind, I hear Blazing Saddles revisited, “A blackmayor!?” – rue the day white Louisvillians, the Negroes arecoming. Ridiculous and overstated as that might sound, anyone whotells me that similar sentiments would not undergird thecommunity’s reaction to such an announcement, I would call aliar.
Dr. Ricky Jones should run for mayor because his campaign wouldnot (as potential detractors might be apt to suggest) be only aboutWest Louisville – and shame on those who actually believe thatbeing black and in politics is synonymous with adhering to thewhims of a special interest group.
He should run for mayor because when he speaks of communityleadership, it is not with one hand on his wallet and one eyetowards a camera. At risk of speaking for someone whom Idon’t know personally, I feel his candidacy would beimportant because it would posit, openly and often, what shouldhave already been internalized in the dialogue of our politicalsystem: that the disenfranchisement of entire groups (of any group)is always unacceptable.
Louisville is strong and now more than ever is putting a face tothe nation. Like Atlanta a few decades ago, racial tensions beliethe pervasive meta-narrative of the Booming Southern City, showingit to be rotten to the core (and Atlanta’s solution was asimilar one – a strong leader, not an initially popular one). Theera of photogenic grinning and warm handshakes – east of I-65 andnorth of the Watterson Expressway – is one which is proving itselfto be increasingly impotent in addressing the needs of our notablyplural community, and I say that Dr. Ricky Jones should run formayor because when he smiles, it is only because he has a reason todo so.
Dr. Ricky Jones should run for mayor because, at least byposterity – if not by the hopelessly temporal self-proclaimedlocal sages who hide their blatant bigotry and unwavering disregardbehind entirely transparent veils of pomp and policy – agreat city will always be judged not by how many people itincludes, but by how many people it leaves behind.
Dr. Ricky Jones should run for mayor because I want a politicianwhom I can quote with respect, not irony. Ultimately, Dr. RickyJones should run for mayor because he would lose, but it would be awonderful campaign to watch. Louisville needs a mayoral campaignwhich articulates that community action leads to community buildingand that such action must begin at 18th and Broadway, not just atBardstown Road and Bonnycastle. Additionally, Louisville needs toerase the myth that the ministry is the only position from whichone can create strong, urban communities.
Lastly, Louisville must admit to the important differencebetween unspoken, and absent. There is malice here, and underneaththe quasi-Orwellian billboards adorned with grinning visages andfleur-de-lis, one finds white sheets, poll challengers, and so muchdeath. Louisville needs a mayoral campaign that presupposes its owndefeat, and so is not afraid to speak of the admirable, but largelyuntapped, potential in white and black Louisvillians. So, thoughchronically uncool, I write this with all possible sincerity: Sayit loud, Brother Ricky.
Jason Schwalm is a sophomore of undeclared major and acolumnist for The Louisville Cardinal. Email him at: [email protected].