A Few Things You Should Know

A Few Things You Should Know
Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz

Op-Ed:

You should know that given the recent controversy surrounding me and the New York City Council has prompted my “friends” and those that I helped acquire their elected positions turn their backs on me.  But I want you to know this is nothing new. Given my past experiences in my life I have develop a thick skin, and grown in my faith to the all mighty.  
 
It is important for you to know that in 1960, during the Vietnam conflict, while many Americans, well connected politicians, and celebrities used their influence to avoid the draft, and others fled to Canada, and other countries I did the opposite.  As a young 18 year old kid, I chose to volunteer and serve my country in the United States Army. Which I am proud to say I did honorably.

My basic training was at Fort Jackson South Carolina.  Remember this was in the early 1960’s in the Jim Crow South. Never mind that I was a United States Army Soldier, if I wanted a drink of water, I was forced to drink out of the water fountain labeled “Colored”.   I was also ordered by those in command to pick up cigarette butts thrown on the sidewalk by White folks.

I can’t help but remember my personal experiences and horrible abuses committed against Black people.  Out of many instances one in particular comes to mind.    It was during my first pass.   I was in the company of my “friends” fellow soldiers who like me were Puerto Rican, one difference though, they were light skin, or should I say White.  

I was all decked out, so proud to be dressed in my Army Uniform, going into town with my buddies, my fellow soldiers.  We decided to go into a bar and enjoy a couple of beers.  When the waiter came to our table he took everyone’s order but not mine.  As he turned to walk away I said “hey waiter, you didn’t take my order”.  He turned, looked at me and said “Whatever you’re looking for, we haven’t got it.”   I looked at my “friends”, my fellow Puerto Ricans, and fellow Soldiers expecting their support, and hoping they would walk out with me, but instead they told me, “looks like you’re going to have to leave.”   Realizing I was alone, I quietly left the bar.  However, my “friends” stayed and enjoyed their beer. 

I completed my tour of duty with an honorable discharge.  However, when I returned to my home town in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, my experience in the Segregated, Jim Crow, South nearly destroyed my life.  In 1965 I left Puerto Rico and migrated to Brooklyn New York, at Sutter Avenue to be exact.  

It was there in Brooklyn NY., that in a small African American Pentecostal church my life took a turn for the better.  I converted to Christianity.  Based on my faith I don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t dance, and I don’t need any of it to be happy.  As a result of my faith, and my thick skin I find happiness inspite of all the attacks, persecution and adversity that may come my way.   I am ever so grateful for my many blessings.   I have much to be grateful for.

In 1993 I was appointed to serve as a Commissioner, representing the Bronx, on the CCRB, {Civilian Complaint Review Board}.   It was here, at a CCRB hearing that a member of the Gay Community attacked me when he violently threw a pitcher of water at me. He then hurled the pitcher hitting me with it. He was not arrested for assault, and I did not press any charges. 

My comments and my positions have often been taken out of context. This has resulted in my being called by a very hateful term, a “Homophobe.”  Anyone who has dealt with me, and knows me personally knows that this is a false description of who I am. A clear example of this is the position I took regarding The Harvey Milk School.   

The HM school was created in New York City exclusively to serve Gay students.  It was going to be a high-end school.  They boasted it would have the latest in technology, with the best equipment and it would be the best of the best in public schools. My opposition was not the school. It was clearly based on the fact that this “high-end school” was being opened exclusively for Gay students and not to ALL students.  Given that tax payer dollars were being used for the creation of this exclusive public school, I opposed its lack of diversity, multi-culturalism, and overall inclusion of other groups. 

In certain case’s we demand inclusion for all, and then in some cases we want segregation and exclusivity and demand special treatment for some.  We must be sincere when we espouse in favor of equality, inclusion and fair treatment for all. Either we favor inclusion for all or we don’t. My dear reader we cannot have it both ways.

This created a political fire storm for me and again I was branded a “homophobe.”  I stood my ground because I felt I was right, so I took my opposition to court. Upon an agreement that the Harvey Milk school would be opened to all students, heterosexuals, Blacks, Latinos and other students I dropped the law suit. But the name calling continued and the true facts of my opposition were ignored.  

Throughout the years as a public servant I have been the object of diatribes, numerous death threats, profane, filthy and hateful language has been used to address me.  The venom is such that my closest friends and associates, out of fear, abandon and openly reject me.  I give you one of the most crystal, clear examples.

Assemblyman Michael Blake, an African American, elected official I called a friend and part of my working community team. He donated $1,000 to my City Council campaign.  Someone got to him, and he was forced to publicly denounce me, and request that I return his donation.  Which he, unabashedly, asked me to return.  Needless to say, I did not.  

Others have been forced not to accept my endorsement or else they will face a backlash.  Business people have been threatened with negative repercussions if they dare donate to my campaign. 

Now we see how far they are willing to go without any regard as to who gets hurt with the actions they take. Recently as you know The City Council voted against the Taxi Industry which will negatively impact the taxi drivers and their lively hood.  The majority of the City Council members voted to eliminate/ abolish the committee that exclusively advocates on behalf of Taxi Drivers. The “For Hire Vehicles Committee” helped the taxi industry by monitoring and preventing further injustices, abuses and discriminatory practices that the taxi drivers have been subjected to. 

Frankly I don’t understand the City Councils action to eliminate the “For Hire Vehicles Committee”.   Removing me from its leadership position is one thing, but abolishing the Committee all together is something else.  This hurts the Taxi Drivers.  Especially during this time when nine (9) taxi drivers have committed suicide due to years of the abuses inflicted upon them by The NYC Council, its previous speaker, and the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. They allowed Uber, and other unregulated for hire vehicle companies to destroy the taxi drivers’ investments add to that the abusive astronomical fees and penalties imposed upon them brought them to the brink of bankruptcy. 

With the elimination of the “For Hire Vehicles Committee” proper monitoring and advocacy on behalf of the drivers and Taxi industry will suffer. The NYC Council with their vote to eliminate this committee has opened the door for the return of these abuses and this may lead to an end of the yellow taxi and livery Industry.  All of that in their senseless quest to persecute and shame me into submission.  That’s fine. But the City Council must answer this question, why abolish the committee, why not just appoint someone else to its leadership position?

As for me I will continue to serve in my elected capacity as a Councilman until I am term limited or my constituents decide otherwise.  In closing I quote 2nd Corinthians 4:8-9.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;”
 
 
This is Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz, and this is What You Should Know.