Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

With a dominant win, Mayor Hogsett will have a second term and there will possibly be 20 Democrats on the city-county council. Congratulations to the Marion County Democratic Party. It was a trouncing for the ages, which Black voters participated in.

But as I have met with thought leaders from across the city, I have consistently heard an interest in figuring out how to enhance our social and economic capacity and even reticence to engage in the policy space beyond voting. 

No doubt we will have to save us with voting serving as a kind of insurance against the worse possible outcomes in many respects — maybe until we get a Black mayor — maybe, but I digress. 

To be fair, thought leaders for the most part have expressed social and economic development as a priority over the policy space instead of ignoring it altogether — which is understandable.

One reason I think this is the case is because like one thought leader said, “We can’t expect policy to improve Black lives.” 

I’d qualify the statement by recognizing that it has been the rare policy thinker who has focused on improving Black lives.   

So here is the challenge. 

At best the mayor thinks a Black agenda should happen but his idea of what that looks like is — well not ideal. The approach has looked like a policy agenda that tackles more white people’s imagination of what “minorities” need and want than providing policies that would actually benefit Black people. 

It’s as if they haven’t taken the time to study Black lives. 

At best it is an interest in “minorities” and “people of color” without the full recognition that those terms are more a linguistic convenience when one is too polite to say “other” than an actual description of people in a city. Black and brown and Asian people, while not monolithic, are just as real as white people and have histories in this city that should inform policy. 

And the “minority” approach raises so many questions. 

First, do Black lives matter in Indianapolis? All lives can’t matter if Black lives don’t. 

There is an Office of International and Latino Affairs, which is a good thing. But why isn’t there anyone on the 25th floor focused on 238,000 Black people? To be clear, it is unfair to expect just Black staff to do their job and take on Black issues as well, especially when it is not their formal responsibility to do so. (And I don’t doubt that efforts have been made.) 

But why hasn’t there been someone focused on Black issues when most mayoral administrations since Uni-Gov had someone focused on Black issues? 

Given the clear Black male homicide problem, why doesn’t IMPD report crime stats to the media and public disaggregated by race as part of its own standard operating procedures? 

Why hasn’t Hogsett used the Black male homicide problem to engage the business and philanthropic communities like other mayors have? 

We have the largest Black male population in Indiana and young Black men are in crisis. We are here. Why don’t we have an Indianapolis Commission on African American Males? 

We know we have an infant and maternal mortality problem in Marion County. Who on the 25th floor is thinking about this everyday?

Again, do Black lives matter? 

Why aren’t “minority” business enterprise numbers disaggregated by race and posted on the city’s website in regular intervals?  

Why doesn’t the $18 an hour wage minimum tied to new developments coming to the city also require reporting of racial and gender wage gaps? 

We also should wonder what happened to the use of force board with civilian oversight and a review of the citizens complaint process.

The presentation the mayor gave to the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and Baptist Ministerial Alliance — a non-Black, some kind of “people of color” something — was Black disparity adjacent. Better than nothing, but more significantly it raised the question, why not address Black issues? 

The mayor achieved a well-deserved win given a strong record, outstanding election operation and against some unfounded and ugly attacks but also legitimate criticism. He’s my mayor — and a good one who we need to be great. 

I wish the mayor and the new city-county council on both sides of the aisle the best of luck. I also hope they focus on Black people and our issues this time around so that we can become one city. We do pay taxes. If not, we got us either way it goes.  

What I’m hearing….

Once a majority of the Democratic caucus, the number of Black city-county councilors was reduced to seven out of 20. This is unprecedented territory, with an expanded progressive wing, the city-county council will be interesting for political observers.  

Rod Roberson became the first Black person elected mayor of Elkhart. Terri Whitt Bailey made history as the first Black nominee in Muncie but also came up short, nevertheless we are proud of her campaign. Duane Ingram, Dee Ross, Antonio Lipscomb and Jamar Cobb Dennard in Lawrence represented our community well in their respective races.

Finally, the announcement of 25-year food insecurity fund and some solid Black diversity on some key funding decision committees at the city, as well as a major grant focused on supporting reentry, happened over the last couple of weeks. Each has the potential for being beneficial to the Black community and consistent with concerns from Black leaders. Why the Hogsett administration didn’t reach out to tell folks at the Indianapolis Recorder is a mystery. Nevertheless, progress is coming.

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com.

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