Boston City Council District 6 candidate Kendra Hicks responded to a campaign mailer sent by her D6 opponent Mary Tamer this weekend that many community members are calling a racist dogwhistle. Following feedback from the community, Tamer also issued a statement.
“In 2021, there is no place for such blatantly racist messaging in a campaign hoping to represent as diverse a community as District 6. I entered this race to meet the urgent need of residents across the city, focused on solutions and with a belief that together we can create better policy with more voices at the table. Darkening or editing a photo of a Black person to look more menacing is a racist tactic that has long been used by candidates in political campaigns, most notably by Republicans. The decision to print and send this mailer to thousands of residents is not only damaging to me but sends a message to the tens of thousands of Black and brown residents across the city. We see it for what it is— a racist trope that has no place in City Council. We are not a menace. We are mothers, children, seniors, workers, voters, business owners, and taxpayers, and we deserve respect," wrote Hicks in a press release, which headlined the "racialized tone" of the mailer.
In an emailed statement to Jamaica Plain News, Tamer said her campaign "abhors all forms of racism," the intention of the mailer was to cite "clear policy differences" between the candidates, and the photo of Hicks was not darkened in any way and that contention is "completely false."
"The photo used was never intended to cause harm or show racial animus, but it is clear, based on the feedback we have received and heard, that it did not set the right tone," Tamer said. "Candidates for public office make errors in the midst of long campaign days, and everyone on this multiethnic, multilingual campaign team has learned a valuable lesson."
Hicks also addressed some of the content in the mailer.
"Implying that my voting record bars me from running for public office is a form of voter disenfranchisement. As someone who has faced barriers to voting—structural and personal—I am committed to expanding voter enfranchisement and removing the barriers that continue to stand in the way of many," Hicks said.
Hicks added that voting isn't the only way to be involved civically.
"Even still, suggesting that voting is the only kind of civic engagement that matters erases the multitude of ways people across our district participate in civic life. Things such as coaching youth sports and mentoring our children, spending time with our seniors, volunteering at our food banks, organizing our neighbors, or fighting social injustice—these actions contribute to our collective well-being and are the kinds of civic-minded activities I and many in our district have dedicated our lives to. To ignore them is to ignore our history as a district," said Hicks.
After receiving the mailer, many in the community took to social media to express their anger.
— Heshan Berents-Weeramuni🗳 (@wheresmyporsche) October 17, 2021
Jesus Heffernan Christ! Did this fly, locally? Or has there been pushback? This is Willie Horton-level baiting.
— Christian Moerk (@christian_moerk) October 17, 2021
— Lee Nave Jr. (@NaveWaveAB) October 16, 2021
I think Mary Tamer has no intention of publicly responding to objections to her STARK DIFFERENCES mailer other than by a campaign spox and this photo which says to me "that mailer wasn't racist I have a black friend" #BosPoli pic.twitter.com/fNfsDXTvQy
— Chris Lynch (@TeaPartyUSA1) October 18, 2021