There was a time when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended a meeting at the White House, where President Barack Obama asked Rev. Al Sharpton and former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to spearhead a national bipartisan education initiative. It was a show of solidarity; a great moment proving that no matter what people’s personal political views were, they could come together on important issues. Unfortunately, it looks like those days are long gone for Mayor Michael Bloomberg (pictured).
Two weeks ago, the City Council of N.Y.C. passed long-awaited police oversight bills that would finally bring some accountability to discriminatory practices, such as “stop & frisk.” The Mayor not only went on a tirade against the ruling, but he then criticized Rev. Sharpton for not doing enough to help others. And according to sources cited in major news outlets, Bloomberg might even use his billions to stop the re-election of council members that voted for these bills.
Last time I checked, we don’t live in a dictatorship and one billionaire should not be able to overrule the will of the majority. It’s a democracy after all.
Everyone knows that New York is one of the most diverse places on the planet. There are people here from literally all over the world. But what visitors might not know is that life for many Blacks and Latinos in this city is very different than the bright lights of Times Square.
Due to policies like stop & frisk, many young Blacks and Latinos walk around in a virtual state of fear from those that are hired to protect them. They are profiled, stopped, searched, harassed, and treated like criminals. They’re forced to show IDs and answer questions even if they’re doing simple things like walking down the street.
And that is a concept Mayor Bloomberg will never understand.
He’s not constantly targeted, he’s not asked to prove that he lives in front of the building he’s innocently standing in front of, he’s not asked to empty his pockets because he looks threatening, he’s not told to prove that the car he’s driving in fact belongs to him, and he’s not forced to second-guess the way he walks or talks for fear of being profiled.
I’m not saying all cops are bad or that all cops do this, but it is a reality – just look at the data.
We at National Action Network (NAN) care deeply about these issues, just like we care deeply about quality education, lack of jobs, poverty, gun violence, and more. Rev. Sharpton and NAN hold weekly rallies at our headquarters in Harlem. We conduct gun buyback programs and anti-violence events. We gather members of the community and civic leaders to “Occupy the Corners” in troubled neighborhoods of this city where we encourage people to seek nonviolent resolutions to their conflicts.
We routinely partner with other community groups that are working every day to keep our young people off of the streets and in school. We fight to bring attention to political battles that impact everything from health care to after-school programs and recreation centers to social programs and more.
On the national education tour I mentioned earlier, Rev. Sharpton traveled to cities around the country with Gingrich and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as they brought the glaring disparity of unequal schools and lack of resources to the forefront. And just last month, Rev. Sharpton teamed up with the Mayor’s Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Education for a Better America to visit several schools as part of a five-borough tour focusing on health, education, and the importance of an active lifestyle.
On both his TV and radio shows, as well as out in the field, Rev. Sharpton continues to fight on behalf of those who don’t have a voice. Even former President George W. Bush once stated, “Al cares just as much as I care about making sure every child learns to read, write, add, and subtract.”
There are things Mayor Bloomberg has done that we obviously respect. But I’m not sure if his ranting over the last few weeks is because he keeps losing over his policies or what.
But either way, there’s no need for him to close his eyes to the reality of the damaging effects of racial profiling and police misconduct.
And instead of working to fix this problem, he chooses to attack Rev. Sharpton and City Council members who worked so hard to bring constructive change to a discriminatory practice.
Whether we’re standing with victims of police brutality or conducting rallies for jobs, justice and security, NAN and Rev. Sharpton work daily to bring hope to young people and to communities that are otherwise ignored. Whatever his reason for this latest outburst, Mayor Bloomberg needs to remember that he’s in office to serve us, not the other way around. And when the majority want change, he needs to be on the right side of justice. If not, then he’ll just be in the same boat as all the other dictators out there going against the people.