The latest round in the slugfest between incumbent state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson (D-Roxbury) and Democratic nominee Sonia Chang-Diaz has taken a racially-charged turn, after one high-profile Wilkerson supporter said that Chang-Diaz is not a "person of color", even though Chang-Diaz is of white, Asian and Latin descent.
Jean McGuire, who is the head of the $20 million state-funded non-profit program known as METCO, told the Dorchester Reporter at a Wilkerson rally last week that "there are white Hispanics and black Hispanics .She is not a person of color." The comments soon hit local left-leaning web sites, such as Blue Mass. Group, where some called on Wilkerson to repudiate the "race-baiting" remarks.
Chang-Diaz called the comments "disingenuous."
"I believe that it is dishonest of Senator Wilkerson and her campaign to suggest that they have to choose between having a person of color in the State House and having strong ethical leadership in the State House," she told reporters.
Wilkerson campaign officials made the opposite charge: that it was Chang-Diaz injecting race in the campaign.
"Because of the dynamics that have been introduced, because Ms. Diaz-Chang has an exotic name and two different ethnic groups, there has been some exploitation of that by some zealous supporters," Wilkerson campaign manager Boyce Slayman told reporters after the recount, accidentally mangling her name. "Race is not the issue for us; we wanted to make the issue experience."
State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, who backed Wilkerson in the primary and hasn't yet made up her mind on whom to support in the general election, said the tone of the meeting and racially-charged rhetoric was "disappointing," though she noted she didn't attend the meeting.
"The tone of the meeting, to me, was really unacceptable," she said.
City Councillor at-Large Sam Yoon, who is choosing to endorse neither candidate in the general election, urged caution in using racial politics.
"Race is important to our identity types, whether you're black, Asian or Latino," said Yoon, who endorsed Wilkerson in the primary. "We have to both acknowledge that it's there but also be careful in how we talk about race."