Local minority organizations and community leaders sent a letter to Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston Monday, criticizing him for what they say is his failure to stop discrimination in city institutions.
The letter was sent a week after Menino made national news for saying he would try to stop Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in the city because of the owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage. “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it,” Menino said in a letter to the company.
In the four-page open letter to the mayor, the minority groups first commend Menino for speaking out against discrimination, then accuse him of overseeing city agencies that “don’t even come close” to reflecting the city’s minority population and giving contracts to companies that do not hire enough women and people of color.
“We, the undersigned, would like to commend you for the strong statements that you made regarding Chick-fil-A because you felt that its practices were discriminatory,” the letter stated. “Although we applaud the ideals you espouse, the facts don’t comply with the rhetoric.”
“If you feel so strongly that discrimination is wrong,” the letter continues, “you should look to all of the discriminatory practices that you have allowed to exist in the city during your reign.”
Dot Joyce, Menino’s spokeswoman, called the letter “misinformed at best.” She pointed to the recent construction of the Roxbury police district station, where more than half the construction workers hired were members of minority groups or women.
She said the letter writers were being opportunistic. “I think it’s convenient that it comes out on the heels of the Chick-fil-A press that generated international attention,” Joyce said.
Memino later acknowledged that he could not stop Chick-fil-A from coming to the city.
Monday’s letter also focused on disparities in the Police Department, asking the mayor why the top two positions, commissioner and superintendent in chief, are held by white men when other cities have named minorities to such positions.
Larry Ellison, a Boston police detective and president of the Masschusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, said the mayor’s comments about Chick-fil-A seemed hypocritical.
“Look at the city of Boston as far as diversity in upper management in his administration,” he said. “Look inside your own house before you start casting stones at Chick-fil-A.”
Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said the criticism is especially unfair, given that the mayor has recently approved $2.2 million to implement a new promotions test for sergeants, lieutenants, and captains, after long-running complaints that the civil service exam administered by the state is discriminatory.
“Instead of receiving accolades for that move, he’s continually being criticized by this advocacy group,” Davis said.
The letter was signed by two ministers, Don Mohammed of the Nation of Islam and the Rev. Bruce Wall, a Dorchester pastor, and five minority groups, including the NAACP.
Wall, pastor at Global Ministries Christian Church, said he wants to make sure those in the black community in Boston know about the letter. He plans to hold a forum at his church Sunday, where the letter will be read aloud.
“It’s important for the mayor to pay attention to this letter,” he said.
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