In 1998 the city of Houston, Texas witnessed the election of its first black mayor, an event that was viewed as “a symbol of newfound strength” for the black community. This chapter is mostly concerned with the power dynamics among political candidates and how alliances with supporters of different ethnic groups formed or dissolved in an increasingly multi-ethnic city. Certain ethnic groups within the city of Houston occupied separate worlds that briefly intersected during this inaugural event, and this is evident in the lives of the three business owners: Smith, Castaneda, and Lewis who all came from starkly different backgrounds. For instance, Lewis had a strong conservative background and yet he supported Brown and affirmative action. Affirmative action was opposed by conservatives due to its racially exclusionary nature as a social program. Despite this, Lewis still supported Brown who viewed affirmative action as an equalizer of sorts, or the “glue” that held the minorities together. Many agreed that affirmative action provides economically disadvantaged minorities with more opportunities, whereas others deemed it unconstitutional. Lewis even commented that the days of the Conservative are long gone. So if you can’t beat them, why not join them? Despite Lewis’s contradictory views, he supported Brown simply because it was the most pragmatic thing to do. Lewis made the smart business decision by latching onto the political success of Brown for the sake of ensuring financial stability for him and his business. This reflects the different approaches and practical considerations that business owners took for reasons of self-interest. Much of the election process was underpinned by race relations, but Smith frankly points out that socio-economics is an equally important issue that directs the shifts in political support by minorities. Access, influence, and money seem to be the driving forces motivating these practical considerations and the coalition forming of different ethnic groups.
In the second to last section, Lewis, Castaneda, and Smith detail personal events of their lives and their relationship with their communities. Smith was adamant about instilling a sense of black identity into his sons. Lewis, despite his conservative background, understood that through fostering tolerance one could alleviate racial tension. Castaneda, however, felt like the middle man in a game of tug of war. With blacks and whites at polar opposites, Castaneda claimed he had “cross racial dexterity.” Also, he brought up the difficulty in assuming an American identity while still retaining certain aspects of his own cultural heritage. This is exactly what W.E.B. DuBois captured in his concept of “double consciousness.” To sum, the city of Houston is becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, and a shift in the demographics of the city might change the representative power of minorities in the political arena and in the government.