Niki Tshibaka: Assemblyman Chris Constant pursues racial division as political weapon

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By NIKI TSHIBAKA

This weekend, my heart swelled with gratitude for the life Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped make possible for me and my family.

His work paved the way for my father, the youngest child of an impoverished widow in the D.R. Congo, to attend an Ivy League college, pursue a successful career in international banking, and create economic advancement opportunities for thousands in developing countries through his work in microfinance. 

Dr. King established love as the animating principle that sustained his nonviolent struggle for racial justice. It was the panacea that made possible his dream’s fulfillment. “Love is the greatest force in the universe,” he said, “[t]he heartbeat of the moral cosmos.”

Love, he believed, would empower our loyalties to “transcend our race.” 

There is a beautiful simplicity to Dr. King’s life message, one that stands in stark contrast to the divisive emails Assembly Member Chris Constant sent non-profit leaders, the media, and Municipal employees this past weekend. Mr. Constant felt the commemoration of Dr. King’s legacy of love and racial unity was an appropriate time to racialize a legal dispute between the Municipality’s legislative and executive branches.

Apparently, Mr. Constant remains livid over Mayor Bronson’s termination of Mr. Clifford Armstrong III, the Chief Equity Officer appointed by the previous administration, and his subsequent appointment of Mr. Uluao “Junior” Aumavae to fill the position.

So, when Mr. Constant was extended a friendly invitation to join Mr. Aumavae and Mayor Bronson for a celebration of MLK Day, he responded by informing everyone on the email chain, including Mr. Aumavae, that he did not recognize Mr. Aumavae as the Municipality’s Chief Equity Officer and invited everyone to raise their “voice[s] for [j]ustice.” I am happy to oblige because I believe his emails made a mockery of Dr. King’s legacy and were demeaning of Mr. Aumavae.

Mr. Constant engaged in the tired tactic of race-baiting when he wrongfully described Mr. Aumavae’s appointment as a “cynical act to divide a community.” Mr. Aumavae’s appointment was intended to unite our community, not divide it. As a member of the black community, I recommended Mayor Bronson appoint Mr. Aumavae to his post, not only because of his sterling qualifications but also to honor the values of diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunity Mayor Bronson and our city hold dear.

It boggles the mind that Mr. Constant refuses to celebrate Mr. Aumavae’s appointment to the highest government office in Alaska a member of the Samoan community has ever held. Does he honestly believe his exploitative conduct promotes equity? 

Mr. Constant also accused Mayor Bronson of failing to advance equity in this administration. Curiously, Mr. Berkowitz’s administration did not submit a federally required Affirmative Action Plan to the Assembly in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019; nor were any African Americans hired to serve in the office of Mayor Berkowitz.

Yet, I suspect neither Mr. Constant nor his predecessors accused Mr. Berkowitz of failing to pursue equity. Simply put, Mr. Constant’s rhetoric does not match his record.

At best, his criticism reflects a lack of self-awareness; at worst, it is naked hypocrisy.  Mayor Bronson has appointed numerous women, three African Americans (including perhaps the Municipality’s first black Chief Human Resources Officer), an Alaska Native, and a Samoan to senior executive positions in his administration. Show me Mr. Constant’s commitment to equity by what he has said and I will show you Mayor Bronson’s commitment by what he has done.

I am disappointed and disheartened by Mr. Constant’s insensitive and opportunistic emails that risked provoking racial discord on a day intended to celebrate racial progress and promote racial unity. As we approach Black History Month, I request that Mr. Constant allow Anchorage’s black community to enjoy the celebration in peace. Why not let the court judge the merits of our respective arguments, while we focus our attention on other important matters of Municipal government?

Notwithstanding our differences, I invite Mr. Constant’s collaboration in this administration’s future pursuits of racial justice and equal opportunity. Like Dr. King, I have an “audacious faith” in our city’s ability to build a better tomorrow if we heed his counsel to run when we cannot fly, walk when we cannot run, or crawl when we cannot walk. Our shared objective is to keep pressing forward, even if progress is sometimes slow, until all of us fully inhabit what Dr. King described as “the city of freedom.” We shall overcome with or without Mr. Constant. Personally, I hope it is with him.  

Niki Tshibaka is the Human Resources director for the Municipality of Anchorage.

30 COMMENTS

  1. A fine piece on building up communities rather than tearing them down. The former requires us to drop petty grievance and extend a hand. The latter, just a hammer.

  2. Rev. King’s city of freedom he was talking about is heaven. that glorious city with its firm foundation! Pressing forward reading the gospel and sharing it to all until the very last one wants to hear to recieve it. Then the church is gone in a whirl.

  3. I don’t think MLK would approve of this victim complex mentality exhibited by Tshibaka. But hard to say. The NAACP already ruled on the firing of Armstrong as illegal. Why is Tshibaka trying to race bait us all here into believing it’s about more than Bronson firing Armstrong? Spare the victim complex. And just speak to us all in tongue… let me find my serpant first. He’s around here somewhere…

    • Wow, John. I gotta hand it to you. You love to debate and you are very loyal, one might say to a fault. It is Constant that brought this onto himself. He invited the debate on MLK day and yes whined about the firing of Armstrong that has done nothing defendable and then called out Bronson for not advancing “equity”. He wanted to debate racial issues and politic on MLK day and Niki made sure to point out how his stance and behavior is wrong and brings more division. And victim complex? Really? Do you understand victim complex at all or are you purposefully using it too loosely so you can make an argument? Knowing your position on the political spectrum, I’m sure it is both.
      **
      Do you really need to defend Constant here? Is his behavior worthy of anyone’s loyalty? No one else decided to respond to the email in this manner. There is a better time to pick this fight. There are better people on your side on the assembly and things they do that are more deserving of defense.

  4. Well said, Mr. Tshibaka. Mr. Constant has at least three personal problems he needs to deal with:
    1. He’s a true hater of people with party opposition;
    2. I believe he harbors true feelings of racism, which he will deny through thinly veiled political positions, but it appears manifestly in other ways;
    3. He’s extremely defensive about his own sexual orientation, to the point of being suspicious of heterosexuality.

    He desperately needs therapy.

  5. Redistricting is typically not a sexy, hot-button issue one can rally the troops around. Constant is astute enough to realize this, which is why he’s trying to manuever Forrest Dunbar into his district through his chairmanship of the Assembly Redistricting Committee. The non-white population of this district makes it a special case among the six Assembly districts as far as the Voting Rights Act is concerned. I wonder how the residents of Fairview and Mountain View feel, considering the opportunity that was available to elect a “person of color” to the new Assembly seat. In my view, running such a person in opposition to Dunbar would be tantamount to opposing the Bootleggers Cove – Government Hill – South Addition good old boys wing of the Democratic Party, effectively sinking it.

  6. I do have to take issue with Mr. Tsibaka here bringing up the phrase “racial justice” yet again.
    There is no such thing as “racial justice”. There is simply “justice”.
    .
    Any time anyone tries to qualify an inherently unqualifiable word, a nefarious political agenda is usually in play. I am not necessarily accusing Mr. Tsibaka of pushing any such agenda here, but at the least he is playing into it by repeating that disingenuous phrase.

    • Yep. Good point Jeff. The peaceful demonstrations of Dr King’s were warranted and overdue. I saw another side of the civil Rights movement. I saw the side where I literally had to run six blocks home from school being chased by a gang a black students I can only presume the reason being because I was non black. I also remember three black cops throwing me in the back of his quad car for a suspicion of holding up a laundromat when I was 10 years old. The perpetrator escaped on a blue bicycle and I was riding a blue bicycle near my home eight blocks away. One of the black cops had a son on probation with my dad being the probation officer. When they brought me back to where they had apprehended me, my dad was there waiting for them. I never saw a grown man cry like I did that day when my dad threatened to throw his son back in prison for what he had done to me. So the civil Rights was a good thing but people turned it ugly and I am witness to that.

      • Interesting. I’m younger than you and love to hear more about what it was like during that time because history classes tell a very Democrat perspective of what went down during that time. It was the real critical moment when Republicans definitively lost the confidence of Black Americans. I find it very interesting that one has to spend time to look into it to know that the first 2 civil rights acts were authored and passed by Republicans and the only reason Barry Goldwater opposed the third was because he worked on the first two and said that the third wasn’t needed if the southern Democrats would just enforce the first two. That is not at all the way Barry Goldwater’s name is remembered now. Democrats and LBJ controlled the media back then and traumatized everyone with television that actually stirred things up more, perhaps like you experienced, and then painted Barry Goldwater as someone standing in the way to stop these violent acts. Democrats have been doing that ever since. Constant is doing it again here. He’s using race as a political weapon to create division, and his motivations have nothing to do with his desire for racial equality or embraced diversity or ending racial divides and tensions. Constant actually wants less equality and more tensions and he wants books to be chosen by the look of the cover. Democrats traumatize and then act like they are here to protect you. Much like a doctor that gives his sick patients mercury and says “Imagine how sick you would be if I didn’t give you all of that medicine. I treat some of the sickest patients. I know what I’m talking about.” And what bugs me about Republicans is they do way too little to expose it and condemn it with courage and confidence. And they do too little to get ahead of it and defeat it for the sake of Black Americans and all minorities that Democrats seek to seduce with their mercury treatment that is pandering, pity, and saying nothing is a minority’s fault because they are powerless over their own fate until Democrats’ enemies are defeated.

  7. Now that’s class. Thank you for your approach Mr. Tshibaka. I am sick of Mr. Constant’s temper tantrums!

  8. What a beautifully written and masterfully constructed argument that, while taking Chris Constant to the woodshed, leaves room to celebrate true progress and to hope for the future. I would like to see more from Mr. Tshibaka.

  9. Concerning Mr. Constant, what can expect of such a small mind. He sees everything in terms of his power, and he spends an inordinate amount of time tearing others down thinking that it raises him up.

    It does not.

  10. The article says, “Mayor Bronson has appointed numerous women, three African Americans (including perhaps the Municipality’s first black Chief Human Resources Officer), an Alaska Native, and a Samoan to senior executive positions in his administration.” Should this really be a boasting point?
    .
    Like Shapiro said, a racially diverse street gang selling meth to high school kids cannot be viewed as a good thing simply because its members include Blacks, Asians, Islanders, Natives and a few women as well. Conversely, an all-Latino church choir cannot be viewed as a bad thing simply because it lacks racial diversity.
    .
    The irrational infatuation with race will never get our culture where it seeks to be. That will only be achieved by everyone simply ignoring race completely; it needs to be a non-factor.

  11. Hey, is the writer of the column above related to that Kelly woman running against Lisa?

  12. I’m just happy someone pointed out the two-sided mouth talking of Constant! Stop trying too use racism as a crutch too separate us! Blah Blah Blah! It’s right up there with China Bug….Blah Blah Blah!

  13. Easy fix here. I say they they fight, steel cage at the next assembly meeting. Constant vs Aumavae. WOOOOOO!!!!!!!

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