Felix Rivera, fair-skinned hispanic gay Assembly member in Anchorage, raised eyebrows last month when he stated, during a forum on The Alaska Black Caucus Facebook page, that there are too many white males in office.
“I really think our political establishments need to get over this idea that only a certain typecast of individual can run for office, because when you do that, you’re typically going to go to someone who is white and someone who is male, and we need to get beyond that very rigid thinking in our political establishments.”
It is a racially tinged statement, and curious because the Anchorage Assembly of 11 has at least two hispanics, one Alaska Native, and several gay and lesbian members, some whom are public about their sexual preference, others who are not. The Assembly also has at least two Jewish members, and one veteran.
It’s a very diverse group except for one thing: Five of the 11 Assembly members do not have children: Austin Quinn-Davidson, Forrest Dunbar, Pete Peterson, Chris Constant, and Felix Rivera are all childless. Four have never been married.
In many respects, it can be argued that the Assembly actually does not represent the community at large.
Rivera’s statement may come back to haunt him, as Stephanie Taylor, a black candidate, last week filed to run against white incumbent Forrest Dunbar on the Assembly for East Anchorage. Rivera, wanting more minorities in office, may be asked to host a fundraiser for Taylor, a Republican running for the nonpartisan seat.
“Systems and particularly the systems of government that we are so concerned about aren’t going to change on their own. They don’t want to change on their own. In fact, they’ve, frankly, brainwashed people into thinking they are perfect, which is how we get people saying there is no racism,” Rivera said. He went on to say that systems need to be deconstructed.
The BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) forum featured minorities who are running for office, such as Troy Wuyts-Smith, running for Assembly in Juneau, who said that people of color have long been prevented from getting a good education or participating in political life.
“These are times of the past and we still face that oppression today,” said Wuyts-Smith, who is a stylist who runs his own pageant business, Crowned, under the name Troy Michael. Wuyts-Smith is the former “Mr. Gay Iceland.”
Wuyts-Smith said during the forum that he proposes carving out grants specifically for minority businesses in Juneau, specifically “black-owned businesses.”
George Martinez, an Anchorage former mayoral candidate who also participated, said working on political literacy is important, as is voter registration.
Barbara Blake, a candidate in Juneau for Assembly, said racism is felt every day by Natives in Juneau.
The Alaska Black Caucus was recently given a grant by the Anchorage Assembly to purchase a building, where presumably the group can continue to do political work. The money came from the federal CARES Act, funds intended to help those who suffered economic harm by the pandemic policies of 2020.