I was interested to read in the Globe today that Chuck Turner talked about James Michael Curley at the hearing to expel him from city council yesterday.
Both Turner and Wilkerson have clearly used part of the Curley playbook–loudly invoke real ethnic grievances whenever caught with your hand in the cookie jar–but I have long wondered whether they were using other aspects of the Curley playbook as well.
Or, to put it more bluntly, are Turner, Wilkerson, and their pals using the Boston Irish model of providing class mobility to an ethnic group with the use of patronage and corruption?
There’s good reason to use this model: it worked. With the help of Curley-style corruption, the Irish in Boston rose from the poverty of three-deckers of Dorchester and Roxbury to the middle class entitlement of West Roxbury ranches with two SUV’s in the driveway.
White (and, okay, Irish) liberals like me are disgusted with Turner and Wilkerson for their cynicism and venality, but perhaps we should get off our high horse, since we occupy our position in this city because of the cynicism and venality of our none-too-distant ancestors.
Of course, the Curley playbook comes at a cost–when cronyism and connections dictate job opportunities, people in other ethnic groups are left out. I don’t have to explain what the Irish ascendancy did to other ethnic groups in this city, and if any non-African-American “people of color” are under the illusion that the Curley playbook will benefit them, they’d be wise to remember that Turner said Sonia Chang-Diaz was not a woman of color.
So what’s my conclusion? I guess maybe it’s this: Wilkerson, Turner, and their public sector cronies are indeed despicable and cynical. But if they are using the Curley playbook to try to help Boston’s African-American community, well, at least they’ve got a plan.