Who Is the Real Black Candidate?

How NYC mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio took a bite out of Bill Thompson's key voting bloc.

Bill de Blasio (Mario Tama/Getty Images); Bill Thompson (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Bill de Blasio (Mario Tama/Getty Images); Bill Thompson (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“The inequality crisis facing our city has crippled New Yorkers regardless of race or gender,” de Blasio told The Root. “When it comes to stop and frisk, I am the only candidate in the race who supports creating an independent inspector general, enforcing a strong racial profiling ban and removing NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.”

On stop and frisk, Thompson has been ambiguous on the subject. Recently he opposed two City Council bills that would make it easier for those mistreated by the race-based policy to seek restitution.

“The situation isn’t a question of legislation; rather, it requires a mayor with the courage to say we will eliminate racial profiling in the city of New York,” Thompson explained to The Root. “We will make sure stop and frisk is no longer being used to profile people because of what they look like. I talked about this issue in 2009 as well.”

Still, one can’t underestimate the impact that de Blasio’s family has had on the mayoral race. De Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, has also stumped for her dad on the campaign trail, saying at a supporters’ dinner, “It’d be one thing if he was just some boring white guy and had no idea what he’s talking about, but he cares about everyone in this city, every type of person, rich, poor, black, white, blue … whatever.”

De Blasio’s wife also has a public presence of her own. In 1979 she wrote an Essence magazine essay entitled “I Am a Lesbian,” proclaiming herself a homosexual woman of color. Then, in a March 2013 follow-up interview, McCray explained how she met de Blasio at City Hall in 1991, fell in love and welcomed their two children. With an approachable charm, McCray lends credibility to the de Blasio campaign in the same way first lady Michelle Obama did for the president when some blacks doubted whether a biracial candidate truly represented them.

Like the image of Clinton playing the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1992, a Sept. 2 Daily News photograph of de Blasio with his family during the West Indian Day parade captures the crux of it all. In the photo, Dante is grooving on the left, McCray is dancing on the right and de Blasio, center, is literally jumping in the air. The image captures a man comfortable in the multicultural surroundings that encapsulate New York City.

On Sept. 10, New Yorkers will see whether Thompson or de Blasio draws the most African-American voters. Until then, the fight for black authenticity continues.

Hillary Crosley is The Roots New York City bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter.