The Quiet Riot

But the effort collapsed. Chamber representatives could only get about 30 signatures. Chamber sources say the list of those who refused to sign included local United Way campaign vice chairman Carlos de la Cruz, Barnett Bank president Carlos Arboleya, and Republic National Bank board chairman Luis Botifoll. A watered-down version was recirculated, but again failed to win adequate support.

"I didn't agree with the terms, the way it was written," says Republic chairman Luis Botifoll of the original letter. "I don't think the boycott is realistic. Mr. Mandela made a very unfortunate statement that hurt a large part of our community. I think the black people here should make an apology to the Cuban community. Since Mandela doesn't want to apologize, then they should apologize. If they will apologize for that, we will apologize for our reaction. It's a two-way street."

"There are those who would paint this as a Mandela issue," counters Johnnie McMillian, the local NAACP president. "Mandela's visit was simply the last

This past year, NAACP volunteers disguised as tourists and maids visited 125 hotels and restaurants in the Miami area and found blacks employed at only 41 of them. The undercover researchers said they experienced "overt race discrimination" at seventeen of the establishments. They claim that three of Dade's four largest country clubs, described as "racially segregated," refused to respond to requests for membership information.

In a September 7 letter urging NAACP executive director Benjamin Hooks to put the organization's full and formal support behind the boycott, McMillian wrote, "Miami probably has the worst record of race relations of any major city in the country.... Only a massive withdrawal of convention dollars can persuade government and white business officials in Dade County to at least move from the Eighteenth to the Nineteenth Century...."

"I see this as a national impetus for blacks throughout the country to review how they are spending their dollars," McMillian says. "It's a very important issue for the whole country, and a very, very bold step on the part of H.T. and the Black Lawyers Association. Blacks elsewhere will be looking for the resolution here."

How do you explain the failure of black elected officials such as Miller Dawkins and Barbara Carey to take an active role in the boycott?

The whole situation shows why the at-large election system has got to go. Under that system, a black candidate can never be elected by black constituents. It is impossible for them to passionately advocate on behalf of blacks where the interest of another community is at odds with it.

Barbara Carey did a magnificent job getting the black set-aside program started. But other communities were not head-to-head in their opposition to it. You can be a very effective black leader here, except when the Jewish and Latin communities say, "Wait a minute, we disagree with that." It's a problem. The white community doesn't have to have an all-white commission, because if the black elected officials don't look out for the white community on critical issues, they'll get rid of 'em.

A lot of black people are upset with Miller Dawkins and Barbara Carey. I am not. I'm a realist. I understand that Miller Dawkins on the Mandela issue would be kicked out of office if he took a position with regard to it. Now, having said that, I think many people would have gone and gotten kicked out. They would have said, "Hey, they're just going to have to fire me over this one." There are some issues that are so fundamental that in my judgment you have to be willing to say, "Well you all can have the job if you're going to try to make me do this."

Isn't this precisely one of those issues, for Barbara Carey, for Miller Dawkins? Shouldn't they have been willing to put it on the line?

Many, many black people say so. In my mind the jury is still out. I'm really trying to search my conscience.

At the moment you appear to many to be acting in the role of a popular black leader. Do you see yourself as a new leader for black Miami?

Do you plan to run for elected office in the near future?
Absolutely not. Absolutely not. First of all, it's just not something I want to do. Second of all, I'm a person who holds very strong to my convictions, and politics is the art of compromise. There are certain things about self-respect and dignity and fairness that I'm just not good at compromising. Thirdly, in the past I've made a lot of enemies. So even if I wanted to, there are many people who would feel I should not be in elected office. Most importantly, I have no desire to be in public office. I feel I can be much more effective in the few little things I can do well, outside. There are insiders and outsiders, and I'm clearly an outsider.

When you do something like this you have to be prepared to be hated, and most people have a need to be liked. I don't have a need to be liked. And I understand that I'm going to be hated. But I believe I'm working toward what's right.

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