DiMasi and black Boston
Trial watched closely after conviction of two black pols
Within minutes of the news that Sal DiMasi had been convicted on federal corruption charges, messages starting flying through cyberspace among those in Boston’s black activist community. But the focus was not on the fall of DiMasi. It was a collective sharing of relief that Sal had not “gotten off” – and now almost certainly faces a significant prison time when sentenced in September.
Why such interest in the case in the black community? Because the two House speakers that preceded DiMasi, powerful white men, were both convicted of federal felonies but never spent a day in jail, while two much lower-ranking, popular black elected officials were sent to prison earlier this year following corruption convictions.
In some sense, DiMasi’s conviction was like a reverse OJ moment across Boston’s black community. A judicial equity was achieved as the white guy finally seemed poised to get the same treatment for a crime that blacks had received. Consensus in many quarters of the communities of color had been that if former state senator Dianne Wilkerson and former Boston city councilor Chuck Turner had to serve prison time for felony corruption convictions, so then must DiMasi.
Kevin Peterson is founder and director of the New Democracy Coalition, a Boston-based organization promoting civic literacy, civic policy, and electoral justice.