That’s the fall election mantra of Democrats desperate to cleanse the White House of its current occupant. But here’s the question some African Americans are now asking: What if the “who” is Michael Bloomberg? Shall we vote blue if all it offers is the chance to replace a stupid racist with a smarter one?
Some will reject that characterization. They will point to Bloomberg’s pledges to increase black home ownership, his support by such black luminaries as Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath and educator Geoffrey Canada.
That’s persuasive. But the audio that was leaked last week is conclusive.
In the clip, made in 2015 at the Aspen Institute, Bloomberg defends stop and frisk, the policy, initiated under his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, of allowing police to detain and search anyone they found suspicious, regardless of probable cause.
“Ninety-five percent of your murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O.,” said Bloomberg, who vastly expanded the policy. “You can just take the description, Xerox it, pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 15 to 25. That’s true in New York, it’s true in virtually every city. And that’s where the real crime is.” So it was necessary, he said, to take black and brown men and boys, “throw them against the walls and frisk them.”
They did this millions of times to millions of people. Nearly all were guilty of no crime.
Tony Lee, a black preacher, recalls a cold day in the ’90s when he was in seminary and it happened to him. He had just walked out of a restaurant with a takeout bag stuffed deep in the pockets of a winter coat when three white men jumped out of a car and rushed him. He wasn’t even sure they were actually police as they threw him against a railing and began frisking him. “Then they feel the food and they scream, ‘Gun!’ and really snatch me up. I scream, ‘No! It’s chicken! It’s chicken!’”
He said they told him later that they stopped him because they’d had reports of “a black man in a black coat” committing crime. Says Lee: “It’s the middle of Harlem in the wintertime. Then they said, ‘Next time, don’t be so nervous.’ One, as if to have the police jump out and snatch you up is not supposed to be an anxiety moment. Two, it was a presupposition of next time.”
Some progressives are impatient with all this. They note that Bloomberg has already apologized. For them, this is all a distraction from a clear and present danger.
Maybe. Still, one can’t help noting the way many white voters seem to regard racism as something that, while a character flaw, is not a deal breaker.
Vote blue, no matter who? How will black people, the most loyal of Democratic constituencies, respond, if this is what they are asked to do?
If Democrats are smart, we’ll never find out.
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172. Readers may write to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His opinion does not necessarily represent the views of The Lima News or its owner, AIM Media.