By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
People are still talking about Mary Bubala.
On May 2, in the wake of Mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation, the veteran WJZ television news anchor seemed to disparage the succession of Black women — Sheila Dixon, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Pugh — who have run the city in recent years.
“The question I have for you; we have had three female African-American mayors in a row. They were all passionate public servants. Two resigned though. Is it a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?” Bubala asked.
The comment, during an on-air interview with Dr. Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Loyola University professor, WEAA radio host and AFRO columnist, sparked outrage. Subsequently, Bubala was fired by WJZ for her perceived transgression fraught with racist and sexist undertones.
Richard Sher, a long-time Baltimore on-air personality voiced the anger of many over Bubala’s firing in a Facebook post on May 7.
“WBAL Radio is burning hot today, as listeners from all across the region are fuming by WJZ’s firing of news anchor Mary Bubala,” Sher wrote. “Live television is tough and sometimes we say or ask something that we later realize could have been worded differently. As soon as Mary, who hasn’t a racist or prejudice bone in her body, realized she misspoke, she apologized,” Sher added.
First of all, how the hell does Sher know about Bubala’s bones?
‘So and so doesn’t have a racist bone in their body,’ is some silly stuff White people say when another White person says or does something that is, or appears to be racist.
I have White friends who I would argue are not racist, but I certainly cannot account for every single bone in their body. The point is only God knows Bubala’s heart.
At the end of the day, I don’t know if Bubala is a racist, but I do know that a whole lot of White people and more than a few Black people are thinking what she implied; it may be time for Baltimore to move on from Black women running the city.
Well, I think that’s a flatout stupid sentiment.
Let’s examine the record. Sheila Dixon was the most effective mayor of my lifetime since William Donald Schaefer. Anybody who thinks she was forced to resign as mayor because she stole $1,500 worth of gift cards, well, I’ve got a bridge in Kent Island I’d like to sell you.
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake didn’t leave office in disgrace or because of a scandal real or contrived. SRB decided not to seek re-election because in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, and the subsequent Uprising, she could not win. The catastrophe of 2015 was not of her making, it was generations in the making.
The Pugh fiasco is what it is; she resigned, she didn’t really have a choice. So, the record of the last three (and only) Black women to run the city is dubious at worst.
But, what about the 44 White men in a row that occupied the mayor’s chair before Clarence “Du” Burns became the city’s first Black mayor in 1987?
The 20th, George W. Brown was arrested and removed from office for being a Confederate sympathiser. The 35th, J. Barry Mahool implemented the first legal ordinance of housing segregation in the United States in 1911, hence Baltimore under Mahool’s leadership officially invented segregation.
According to a story in the Washington Post (April 29, 2015), “From 1951 to 1971, 80 to 90 percent of the 25,000 families displaced in Baltimore to build new highways, schools and housing projects were Black. Their neighborhoods, already disinvested and deemed dispensable, were sliced into pieces, the parks where their children played bulldozed,” according to the Post.
The White men that occupied the mayor’s chair during those 20 years included: Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., J. Harold Grady, Philip H. Goodman, Theodore McKeldin and Thomas D’Alesandro, III.
Dozens of White men (10 resigned from office before Dixon in 2010) presided over, and in many cases orchestrated the subjugation and oppression of Black people for generations in Baltimore. I don’t think the Baltimore Sun, WBAL Radio, WJZ-TV, or any other White-led media organization, or individual White journalist ever called for change of course from White male rule of City Hall. From 1797 to 1987, over nearly 200 years did a member of the White media call for “a different kind of leadership” despite the repeated atrocities perpetrated against the Black community at the hands of local government.
Many believe Bubala’s firing was draconian and cowardly on the part of WJZ. Those people may be right.
However, during my three years on the air at WEAA during the evening drive Monday through Friday, I made many controversial, sometimes volatile statements. And although me dropping the mic at WEAA was my choice, if I had said something viewed as anti semitic, I would have been unceremoniously yanked out of my chair with a quickness.
This is a fact.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.