Philly mayoral candidate Anthony Williams prays for city to understand its bias

Instead of blaming Donald Trump for dividing the country, mayoral candidate Anthony Williams says Philadelphians should first confront their own prejudices.

Listen 4:03
Philadelphia mayoral candidate Anthony Williams. (Jennifer Lynn/WHYY)

Philadelphia mayoral candidate Anthony Williams. (Jennifer Lynn/WHYY)

There are some familiar Democrats running for mayor of Philadelphia: incumbent Jim Kenney, former city controller Alan Butkovitz, and state Sen. Anthony Williams.

In the coming days, WHYY’s Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn will roll out excerpts from conversations she’s had with each of them in advance of next week’s primary.

We’ll hear the candidates talk about things that struck Lynn as not too “campaigny,” if you will.

Let’s start with Williams.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Lynn sat with him a few weeks ago before Philadelphia’s Black Clergy endorsed him.

They met at Rhythm & Brunch Cafe, a black-owned small business in Philly’s multi-ethnic Elmwood neighborhood.

During his unsuccessful run for mayor four years ago, Williams told Lynn about the value of prayer in his daily routine.

She revisited the topic at the cafe, and talk of prayer led to something else.

Last time we spoke you said you pray every morning. Do you pray for Philadelphia? And I apologize if I’m coming up with the notion of what prayer is for you.

I continue to pray every morning and during the course of the day. I pray for a variety of things. Many things we all see troubling — the level of hatred, vitriol, division. That’s part of not just the national landscape, but our local landscape as well.

I also say this. I pray for enlightenment for those who think that they are not a part of that.

One of the things that strikes me in this country is that we talk a lot about Donald Trump. We can come to Philadelphia where we have the majority population of African Americans in poverty. That doesn’t happen by accident. The majority of social programs that deal with poverty in Philadelphia are administered by a lot of people who don’t live in Philadelphia and are not of those communities.

We’re biased. You know, it was pointed out at Starbucks by a very ignorant activity and people sort of stood up self righteously and pointed out what happened to them.

If you sit in a city where the majority population doesn’t have a bank, doesn’t have the head of a law firm, is not administrator of a major educational institution, not a head of a major nonprofit in Philadelphia — maybe with the exception of one — not the head of a major private-sector business with the exception of maybe two people. There’s bias.

So we have to look at ourselves before we look at Donald Trump. We have to be honest about the fact that we have some prejudices or stereotypes of other people, other human beings that we don’t look at. And we have a challenge in Philadelphia to do that.

I always step into these waters of controversy because people call me to say, ‘Well, he’s pitting black against …’ No. I’m talking about human beings. And the truth is that we look at the other definitely. Millennials say to old people, “They’re old. We’re new. Get out the way.” Black people, white people, whoever they are, do operate in different spaces where they worship, do shop in different spaces, live in different spaces.

The mortgage crisis, that exists in Philadelphia, if you’re a person of color. The Pew Foundation found that if you’re black with the same credit score as a white person, you don’t get the mortgage. These are issues that are challenging to deal with because we don’t want to see ourselves that way.

But the only way I’ve made friends with different types of human beings is I was honest with who I am, and they’re honest with who they are. We move into, not past, it. We embrace our differences. Don’t pretend like we don’t have them, that they don’t exist. I hate when people use the term “colorblind society.”

Why would I want to eat colorblind food? That’s crazy. If I go to an Irish pub, I want to have an Irish experience. If I want African American soul food, you don’t want to eat Afro-American soul food and not gain weight. That would be ridiculous, right? Who doesn’t want to have Italian food with a little, you know, “mamma mia” behind it?

These are all things that are great things about this country. We just have to reconcile how the differences don’t mean we step upon each other, we step together.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal