Mayor Bill de Blasio nonplussed everyone on the debate stage Wednesday night when he announced that he brings something special to the table. “There’s something that sets me apart from all my colleagues running in this race,” he said, at which point every New Yorker knew what was coming, “and that is, for the last 21 years, I have been raising a black son in America.”
He thus deliberately reopened an issue — regarding race and the police — that rocked New York in 2014 and nearly derailed his mayoralty.
The mayor’s son, Dante, has been credited with getting de Blasio enough support from black and liberal white voters to eke out a primary victory in 2013. The mixed-race de Blasio household featured prominently on palm cards and in television commercials and has been an essential feature of every de Blasio campaign. Even in 2009, then-Councilman Charles Barron savaged de Blasio for “disgracefully” exploiting his wife’s race in campaign literature when he ran for public advocate.
From de Blasio’s perspective, of course, the tactic has paid off handsomely before, so why not keep using it?
De Blasio went on to say Wednesday night: “I have had to have very, very serious talks with my son, Dante . . . including how to deal with the fact that he has to take special caution, because there have been too many tragedies between our young men and our police, too, as we saw recently in Indiana.”
De Blasio said something similar in early December 2014, after a grand jury refused to indict the NYPD officers involved in the Staten Island arrest of Eric Garner, who subsequently had a heart attack and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. The mayor and his wife, he explained, have had to “literally train” their son “in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”
The mayor’s statement infuriated the men in blue — and rightly so: He all but explicitly called them racist murderers. Two weeks later, two NYPD officers — Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Lu — were assassinated by a black militant who sought revenge for Garner’s death.
“I’m putting Wings on Pigs Today . . . They Take 1 of Ours . . . Lets Take 2 of Theirs,” the assassin wrote. The NYPD rank-and-file turned their backs on the mayor in the hall at Woodhull Hospital and again at their comrades’ funerals.
De Blasio’s 2014 comments about how his son lives in fear of being killed by his father’s security detail came after other missteps. After Garner’s death, the mayor held a roundtable to discuss the case. He sat himself between NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and anti-cop rabble-rouser Rev. Al Sharpton, giving the visual impression that the two men were of equal stature in his administration. When Sharpton began an anti-cop tirade, de Blasio listened appreciatively.
The cops responded by working to rule, “sicking out” and easing off arrests. De Blasio rushed to repair relations with the NYPD, stopped flaunting his admiration for Sharpton and began praising the efforts of the police to keep communities safe. The cops went back to work, but there is no question that damage was done — the average cop on the beat is deeply suspicious of the mayor.
That de Blasio would return to this old theme shows that the mayor’s political cynicism is intact. In reality, the police don’t target black people for abuse, and police violence — against anyone — is extremely rare. In 2016, the NYPD used force in just 1.3% of its more than 300,000 arrests; of these, 87% were categorized as “Level 1,” the least-forceful means of subduing a suspect.
Nationally, though police shootings of black people are automatically major news, they occur much less frequently than is generally assumed — and at a rate significantly lower than the rate at which black people commit violent crime. Compared to the rates at which African Americans and white people shoot at police, killings of white people are enormously disproportionately high.
Which brings us back to his remarks about the recent “tragedy” between “our young men and our police, too, as we saw recently in Indiana.”
He was talking about Eric Jack Logan, who, apprehended while allegedly robbing a car, was killed by a South Bend policeman after he refused to drop a knife he was wielding. The case is being investigated, but does Logan — a 53-year-old convicted felon — really have enough in common with Dante de Blasio — a 21-year-old Yale grad — to bother making an analogy between them, based solely on the color of their skin? Hizzoner has spent five years treating New Yorkers to his brand of race-baiting demagoguery. Let’s see how well it plays on the national stage.
This piece originally appeared at the New York Post
Seth Barron is associate editor of City Journal and director of the NYC Initiative at the Manhattan Institute.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images