Can Bill de Blasio Usher in a New NYC?

The mayoral candidate talked exclusively with The Root about making the city livable for everyone.

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The Root: You have been the most outspoken critic of the NYPD"s stop-and-frisk policy. How has having a son who is African American informed your stance on this issue?

Bill de Blasio: It has been a fundamental piece of why I oppose the policies of this city. The question for my wife and I has not been if my son will be stopped, but when. We have had to jolt Dante into the recognition that he must understand that he will be stopped, and he'll be treated as a suspect. Police won't know him individually and won't see into his pure soul. So he needs to be cautious and aware.

And I know that is a conversation that hundreds of thousands of parents have with their children. But that conversation is only happening in African-American and Hispanic households. Policing in New York City has literally become separate and unequal.

TR: What do you wish to see happen with regard to the policy? What will you do or propose as mayor?

BDB: Judge Scheindlin was extraordinarily fair in the way she appointed a federal monitor. The police have exercised too much individual discretion in their determination for who counts as a suspect. And since the NYPD has never had substantial oversight, the only way to address these issues is head-on. But the truth is that if our City Council had managed to get its house in order, we wouldn't have required a court decision. The council has the power to curb police activity. We should vote and take a stand. 

Now that the federal court has spoken, the city should not appeal the decision. And I, as mayor, would push for even stricter protections and safeguards. My problem with the status quo is that it's counterproductive to public safety. And more importantly, it is corrosive to the self-esteem of young men of color.

TR: Besides your family, is there something in your background that informs your passion for social justice?

BDB: My father was a veteran of World War II. He fought in the Pacific and lost his leg to a Japanese grenade. When he returned, he suffered from what doctors today would diagnose as PTSD -- but those were different times. And men were left to wrestle with their demons.

From the time I was born, he was suffering from alcoholism, and my parents split by the time I was 7 years old. After that, he sank deeper into problems, and I felt torn and confused by it. I admired the hero that he was in war, and knew that there was something good and noble about the service to his country, but from a family perspective, he had let us down.

As I gained adult consciousness, it was impossible not to grapple with that. And if you're a young male and your main example is absent or troubled, that battle becomes your own. It felt like there was an injustice inherent in our experience. And history had come home to our family.