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Consultant Jim Crupi's report about Richmond might be more appropriately called "A View From the Top." Forty donors commissioned Crupi's report through the Greater Richmond Chamber, 15 years after his first controversial take on the region. Presented to the public last week, Crupi's report underwhelms with the nefarious and inglorious design of his research.
Who suggested the 110 respondents that Crupi interviewed? How many of the original signatories of the infamous letter advocating an appointed school board conspired to commission Crupi? What school officials were interviewed? Despite denials by the Chamber, Crupi's laserlike inclination, which devalued and calcified issues critical to the city, was indicative of having been programmed to produce his report.
Those who would deny that Crupi was directed to cut and paste the conscience of Richmond to fit the ideological quackery of the power brokers are as quirky as those who demand footnotes on myths. Given the inerrancy of Crupi's past rigid thoughtlessness where Richmond is concerned, it is incredulous that he would have been invited to return. This scenario enunciates the hemorrhaging of trust emerging from the suspicion that actions and ideas of the elite appeal more to anxieties than to aspirations. The racial fissures, which Crupi sanitized, will damage the minds, souls and spirits, sealing off from hope itself the plight of minorities in the region.
The affinity that the shakers and movers have with Crupi has a longstanding context with which I have firsthand knowledge. In the aftermath of Crupi's first report in 1993, wherein he dastardly criticized black leaders in Richmond, as a City Council member I unilaterally sponsored a resolution to sanction him for his baseless and biased assertion. The imperiousness of his attitude left a stench in the nostrils of decency.
In an attempt at damage control, I met with Jim Ukrop (at his invitation at the Brook Road store) along with Bryson Powell and Wallace Stettinius in early 1994. Resulting from this meeting was a deceptive commitment to deny any connection to Crupi's comment about black leaders. The commitment was in the form of a letter, which was grudgingly prepared for my reading into the official record of City Council. The deception was subsequently made transparent in a galling letter from Ukrop explaining why he did not support me in the following City Council election "because I had branded Crupi as a racist."
Any credence that could gratuitously be given to Crupi for his foray into the city's politics is gravely impaired by his incessant and erroneous reference to a "strong mayor." Richmonders voted not for a strong mayor, but for a mayor-at-large. Crupi's pious ascription of this office is one of lionizing the current mayor's role. It reinforces the power brokers' grandiose chatter and shameless exploitation of the voters' choice to elect the mayor-at-large. The use of this term by the mayor is pure and simple self-aggrandizement and has acerbated the metastasis of the cancerous culture that has resulted from Mayor Doug Wilder's regime.
If Crupi had performed the research, he would have discovered that Wilder has been a colossal disaster. His arrogance, egomania, heartless and irrational actions have brought untold harm to the city's image. He has traumatized the workforce, putting into jeopardy the livelihood and survival of families, the majority of whom are black.
Crupi's obsession with Wilder has many contradictions. For one, Crupi extolled the Greater Richmond Partnership "as a strong voice and advocate for economic and regional development," the very same organization that Wilder threatened with denial of funding, only to be reversed by City Council.
In trivializing Wilder's attempted eviction of the School Board from City Hall, Crupi was oblivious to history when the racist zealots attempted to destroy public education in Richmond. Wilder was a black mayor and a product of Richmond public schools, so his attempt to destroy the infrastructure of public education in the city is nightmarish and should earn him a place in history along with the perpetrators of Massive Resistance.
When the city is heading toward an iceberg, how could Crupi suggest that everyone should come together and give Wilder what he wants? To do so would be the same as putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. The only change necessary in the city charter should include consequences for the illegal, power-grabbing actions of Wilder.
Crupi's attack on public education in Richmond was typical elitism, uninformed and exceeding the outer bounds of logicality and propriety. Included in his report were myriad social issues with the concomitant overlay of poverty, which adversely affect the teaching and learning process. Crupi showed some logical thinking, however, when he stated that "it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the Richmond Public Schools are getting large numbers of children who are not ready for school." He is correct!
But he destroys his own conclusions with the undocumented assertion of "weak city public schools," which found a recurring resident in his thinking throughout the report. He disregarded facts: Almost 90 percent of the schools are accredited. Richmond Public Schools were also given recognition when the superintendent testified before a congressional committee on successful urban education as practiced in Richmond. If Crupi had done his homework, he would have found that the affluent and populous Fairfax County inquired about Richmond's effectiveness in urban education.
As race relations goes, it was laughable for Crupi to use as an indicator of improved racial relations this statement: "Fifteen years ago, a letter expressing concerns over the state of the City's Public Schools education would never have been signed by both white and black business leaders."
The blacks who signed the letter were the antithesis of the Civil Rights Movement. Their traitorous action in not recognizing the very same debilitating conditions cited in Crupi's report makes a mockery of their leadership positions and reduced them to a status of disgraceful beneficiaries of the struggle for equality and recognition.
No matter how far things have progressed, the issue of race still has not been resolved. Crupi's feeble attempt to homogenize the issue of racism among both whites and blacks is transmuted by the fact that racism can only be exerted where there are the economic and social resources to enforce it. Blacks are sparsely represented on corporate boards where major decisions are made or not made affecting millions of black citizens.
Crupi is reminded that it is not racism for blacks to eschew the worshipping of the statues on Monument Avenue. Rather it is the acknowledgment that we will never allow ourselves to be enslaved again. Black racial pride is that ennobling human spark that will not be extinguished as long as we remain vigilant. We will not compromise any of our efforts to be "the wind that shakes the world." Finally, we must be unswerving in our determination to make the society think of itself as "a preventive pathology instead of a curative pathology." SRoy A. West is a former Richmond mayor and former administrator with Richmond Public Schools and sits on a number of local community boards.
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