After an emotional debate that evoked memories of the early years of the civil rights movement, the D.C. City Council agreed this week to continue to list the race of appointees to city boards and commissions in official council reports.
Council member Jerry A.Moore Jr. R-At Large) started the debate by protesting the practice, which was followed in documents recommending council confirmation of two members of the Rental Accommodations Commission and one member of the Boxing and Wrestling Commission.
"Some of us worked to get the newspapers to stop designating people by race," Moore declared. "We are reverting to an old style that many of us worked so long and so hard to get uprooted from our society."
Council chairwoman pro tem Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), who submitted the confirmation reports, disagreed. "We are going back to our roots," Winter said, smiling as she added: "I kind of like it."
Winter said the listing furthers the goal of increasing the number of blacks and other minorities on city boards anc commissions and broadening representation from all parts of the city.
Nominations to city boards and commissions are made by the mayor and sent to the council for approval. The council, in turn, refers the nomations to a committee which then recommends whether the nominees should be confirmed or rejected.
These recommendations are accompanied by staff-written reports which describe the nominees, including their race and qualifications. The reports include background data on the other members of the affected boards or commissions. They also list the race of the other members.
This has been the practice since shortly after the beginning of home rule in 1975.
Only black council members, who form a majority of nine of the council's current membership of 12, joined in the debate. In the end, on a procedural motion by William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), the council voted 7 to 5 to keep the racial listings.
The council's three white members split, 2 to 1, in the vote. David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) supported the position voiced by Moore. Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) and Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) backed Winter.
Hilda Mason (Satehood-At Large), siding with Winter, said the campaign that was recalled by Moore to eliminate public racial designations came "before black pride and black self-determination."
"This," Mason said of the council report on the rental board nominees, "is not negative, it is affirmative."
Speaking of the nominees, John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2) said he was "more interested in their philosophies of rent control than . . . race."
Wilson said he recently received a political group's questionnaire that included a checklist of races. "By instinct, I checked 'native American,'" Wilson said. "I'm a seventh-generation native American. I've never lived anywhere else . . . I consider us human beings-purple, black, white, yellow, pink."
Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8), whose far Southeast neighborhood has been under-represented for years on city boards, said the racial listing "is to me, needed information."
Rolark, however, said she voted against Spaulding's procedural motion to table Moore's proposal because she wanted to vote directly to kill Moore's proposal.
Voting for Spaulding's motion were: Council chairman Arrington Dixon, Willie J. Hardy (D-Ward 7), Kane, Mason, Shackleton, Spaulding and Winter. Voting against were; Clarke, Moore, Rolark, Wilson and John L.Ray (D-At Large).
Action on the nominations to the Rental Accommodations Commission-Frank Emmet Jr. and Patricia Wells-was postponed Tuesday for procedural reasons until April 10. York Van Nixon, a reappointment to the Boxing Commission, was confirmed by the council on Tuesday.
Wells and Van Nixon are black and Emmet is white.