Black New York leaders are infuriated over a political mailer that was allegedly sent out from a Hudson Valley Republican bidder ahead of the race for New York’s 17th Congressional District, News 12 The Bronx reports. The flyer attached in the mailer directly associated crime with Black men, further perpetuating a stereotype we’ve seen for decades.
In 1988, George H.W. Bush produced the Willie Horton campaign advertisement to promote his stance against crime. By doing so, he harped on the criminalization of Black men and drove the fear of Black folks in the white community even deeper. It seems someone didn’t learn from this catastrophic lesson.
The report says Peekskill Mayor Vivian McKenzie, Rockland County Legislator Toney Earl and NAACP Mid-Hudson Regional Director Wilbur Aldridge claim the mailer was sent from the Michael Lawler campaign. The flyer criticized Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney for making the preservation of cash bail reform his “top priority.” Though, in making the argument, the ad took an offensive angle suggesting the only people benefiting from bail reform are Black criminals.
Three years ago, New York state ended cash bail assessments for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies - a move aimed to help people, especially Black folks, avoid unnecessary incarceration, per the Brennan Center.
Read the reactions from News 12 The Bronx:
“If you are culturally sensitive then you would certainly recognize that this was very inappropriate,” said Wilbur Aldridge, NAACP Mid-Hudson regional director.
Aldridge said the “offensive material” only contributes to the stereotype that people of color, particularly Black men, commit crimes and are the only ones who benefit from the state’s bail reform laws.
“I’m sorry that he [Lawler] thinks it’s a bigger issue than it should be, but that may speak to his feelings about culture. He may not be culturally sensitive,” added Aldridge.
Per the report, the mailer was issued by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a group focused on electing Republicans to the House. However, Lawler’s campaign spokesperson denied the accusations that the mailer came from the Republican candidate, who Rep. Maloney has since labeled an extremist.
“First of all, this isn’t our mailer. Secondly, it’s incredibly ironic that this false accusation of racism is coming from Sean Patrick Maloney, the man who forced a sitting African-American congressman from his party out of the district. White privilege much?” said spokesperson William O’Reilly to News 12 The Bronx.
Political campaigning is a nasty game on every level. The trend now is to slap the word “racist” onto any opponent. However, this mailer is a true example of what race-baiting looks like.