(The Root) — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is known for his willingness to take controversial positions, say controversial things and shrug off criticism for doing both. From New York City’s smoking ban to its ban on large, sugary drinks to his aggressive national campaign for gun control, he has earned critics and fans for stubbornly refusing to back away from his decisions and his positions, even when they turn out to be offensive or flat-out wrong.
That could soon change. On Friday, during a radio interview, the mayor may have finally crossed the line and said something so offensive that he will be forced to retract it — or, in political spin jargon, “clarify it” — if he wants to maintain the credibility necessary to lead the nation’s most racially and ethnically diverse city.
When asked about New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, which the New York Civil Liberties Union found disproportionately and unfairly targets young, black and Latino men, the mayor replied:
There is this business, there’s one newspaper and one news service, they just keep saying, “Oh, it’s a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group.” That may be, but it’s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims describe as committing the murder. In that case, incidentally, I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.
With those words, the mayor officially joined Paula Deen as yet another high-profile person saying something incredibly offensive about a group of people with whom he claims to be friends, yet to whom he is clearly racially insensitive, in a shockingly oblivious way. The mayor lobbed this racially inflammatory defense to justify his plans to veto pending City Council bills, previously covered by The Root, that would empower victims unfairly targeted by stop and frisk to more easily seek legal and judicial remediation.
The mayor’s recent remarks call to mind those of federal Judge Edith Jones, accused of claiming during a lecture that blacks and Latinos are more violent. Her alleged remarks sparked an outcry and a rare move from her senior peer in the judiciary: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts ordered that Jones and her remarks be reviewed, a move reserved for only the most serious and viable accusations lodged at a federal justice.
But there is no one to initiate similar review of Mayor Bloomberg — except, of course, the people who put him in office. Only if their outcry is loud enough will he perhaps be forced to finally take responsibility for using discriminatory language to champion a discriminatory policy.