By Kip Diggs A friend asked me recently as I was preparing to run for state representative in Barnstable if I was planning to run as an African American candidate, given all the national focus on the Black Lives Matter movement. I replied - with a straight face - that I was thinking of running instead as a descendant of the Mayflower voyage!
Our conversation then veered into a deeper discussion about race in America and how our skin color is what people see first, and perhaps last. It would be absurd to think that our blackness wouldn’t be noticed in a county that is 92 percent White, but I have great faith that my community sees beyond the obvious fact of my skin color and fully considers who I am as a person.
As a candidate for public office now reaching beyond my personal comfort zone of work, family and friends, I am meeting people every day who don’t know my personal story – a story that began like so many others at Cape Cod Hospital where I was born - and which has remained centered in the town of Barnstable. Like so many of my friends and neighbors here, I graduated from Barnstable High School, where I played varsity hockey. I began training as a boxer when I was 22 and turned professional when I was 24. Over the course of seven years and 35 professional bouts, I rose to become the world welterweight champion before I retired in 1999 with a 30-5 record.
Those experiences were formative, but my true north is my own personal sense of identity as the father of three children, one of whom was tragically killed four years ago along with his two cousins and a friend when a driver going the wrong way on Route 495 struck their car head on. Just as I lost my son to a drug-impaired driver when he was just 20, I lost my brother to an alcohol-impaired driver when he was 19 and I was just 11 as he drove me home from a hockey game.
I was never knocked out in a boxing ring, but like everyone I have been knocked down.
I was never knocked out in a boxing ring, but like everyone I have been knocked down. But the true measure of who we are is how we live our lives even in the aftermath of tragedy. Did we collapse under the awful weight of tragedy? Yes, we did. But we were able to stand back up because this community carried my family through those nightmarish days and carries us still. It is this community that I want to serve in the Massachusetts Legislature.
The sum of my parts has pointed me toward those in need. I worry about my 89-year-old mother, but I also worry about the frail elderly who need long-term care services now when our nursing homes have been ravaged by this deadly pandemic. I cannot look the other way when I see the homeless population in my community, many of whom are drug or alcohol addicted or suffering from undiagnosed mental illness. I know I am fortunate to have a good job, but I also know that many in our community are living paycheck to paycheck or have lost their jobs during this pandemic. More still are being pushed out of our community because of the rising cost of housing on Cape Cod. And, yes, I will work for racial justice and equality, but not simply because I am a Black man. but rather because I am a person of faith who believes that my community will judge the content of my character. Kip Diggs is a lifelong Barnstable resident and the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Barnstable District seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.