New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio surprised his naysayers when he emerged from the first Democratic debate with more favorable views than expected. That result was due in part to how he abruptly injected his opinion when the debate turned to the topic of race.
“For the last 21 years I’ve been raising a black son in America,” de Blasio said in an attempt to distinguish himself from the other candidates. As race has increasingly become a divisive issue on the young campaign trail, many people saw de Blasio’s move as a defining moment for his lagging candidacy, which has consistently polled low.
But then that debate momentum stopped as abruptly as it had begun when the very next day de Blasio quoted controversial Cuban revolutionary figure Che Guevara. That same night, Kamala Harris made her own strong stand on race during a heated confrontation with former Vice President Joe Biden during the second Democratic debate, giving the California senator’s campaign the boost that Mayor de Blasio had previously, and briefly, enjoyed.
De Blasio was forced to apologize for his blunder, Biden continued to be dogged by allegations of racial insensitivity and understanding throughout the weekend and Harris was crowned the overall unofficial winner of both debates.
All of which could explain why, seemingly out of nowhere, de Blasio’s “black son,” Dante, penned an op-ed for USA Today on Monday about his father giving him “the talk,” a common euphemism for parents advising their Black and brown children about how society views them differently from their white counterparts. Specifically, Dante de Blasio, 21, said his father made him aware of “how to talk to the police.”
That assertion may have been especially hard to believe for some Black New Yorkers who saw the mayor’s apparent inaction when it came to disciplining the NYPD officer who used an illegal chokehold to kill Eric Garner on video nearly five years ago.
While the opinion piece was not without merit, seeing as parents of Black and brown kids have continued to give incarnations of “the talk” for centuries now, the timing of it came across as a way to exploit the mayor’s son’s brown skin for political gain. In contrast, Harris’ commentary toward Biden came across as more sincere.
Even before Wednesday’s debate, de Blasio tweeted that his son, who recently graduated from Yale University, was playing a role in his presidential campaign.
The extent of that role was becoming clearer with Monday’s op-ed.
“We’re taught to fear the people meant to protect us, because the absolute worst-case scenario has happened too many times,” Dante de Blasio wrote about the police. “This reality cannot continue.”