A white Boston City Council candidate is under fire for a campaign flyer showing a photo of her in color and her black opponent in grayscale, while noting the “stark differences” between them.
The campaign of Mary Tamer, an Arab-American running for the city’s District 6 seat, sent the promotional material out to voters last week — but some locals quickly blasted the mailouts as “racist.”
“Mary Tamer’s city councilor campaign has gone full-blown racist. If you’re in Boston and live in District 6, vote for Kendra Hicks,” one resident wrote on Twitter, referring to Tamer’s opponent.
“As if the baseless fear-mongering and falsehoods here weren’t bad enough, they had to darken Kendra Hicks’ skin tone in the photo. This couldn’t go into the recycling bin fast enough,” another voter wrote.
Tamer’s campaign addressed the controversy on Twitter Monday.
“The Tamer Campaign, which abhors all forms of racism, sent out a mailer citing clear policy differences between Mary and her opponent, Kendra Hicks,” Tamer’s account tweeted.
“The photo used was never intended to cause harm or show racial animus, but it is clear, based on the feedback we have received and heard, that it did not set the right tone.”
Tamer’s campaign acknowledged that candidates for public office “make errors” during the process and said it had “learned a valuable lesson” — but stopped short of apologizing.
“What we intended to focus on and will continue to focus on are the significant policy differences between Mary and her opponent,” Tamer’s account tweeted early Monday. “Elections are about choices, and District 6 voters have a clear choice to make on November 2.”
Tamer’s campaign added in a statement Monday that the photo of Hicks was originally in color and was converted to grayscale, a “common design element used in campaign advertising,” the Boston Globe reported.
Hicks, meanwhile, accused Tamer of sending the “racist trope” to make her appear “more menacing” to voters in West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.
“In 2021, there is no place for such blatantly racist messaging in a campaign hoping to represent as diverse a community as District 6,” Hicks said in a statement Monday.
“The decision to print and send this mailer to thousands of residents is not only damaging to me, but sends a message to the tens of thousands of black and brown residents across the city.”
Activists from Jamaica Plain Progressives, which endorsed Hicks, denounced the campaign flier as racist while noting that Tamer’s campaign did not apologize, the Globe reported.
“This morning, after several days of outrage and pushback from the D6 community, the Tamer campaign released a statement noting that the mailer ‘did not set the right tone,’” the group said.
“We call this a statement and not an apology because nowhere in it was an expression of regret, an acknowledgment of the harm caused, or the word ‘sorry.’”
A Boston resident who had volunteered for Hicks campaign characterized the mailer as offensive — and insisted it was intentional.
“It wasn’t some mistake,” Lee Nave told the Globe, speculating that Tamer was targeting firefighters and cops with the flyer. “They did it on purpose.”
The mailer contrasted the candidates on its backside, framing Tamer as the more moderate choice and claiming that Hicks would abolish police and shutter prisons. It also noted that the Boston Democratic Socialists of America endorsed Hicks, the Globe reported.
Hicks, a community organizer from Jamaica Plain, topped September’s preliminary vote, winning 49 percent compared to 43 for Tamer, a former Boston Schools Committee member from West Roxbury.
The pair are both running to replace outgoing City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who has endorsed Tamer, according to the Globe.
O’Malley did not respond to a request for comment Monday after Jamaica Plain Progressives called on him to withdraw his endorsement, the newspaper reported.