Twelve Years of Bloomberg as Mayor: A New Yorker’s Perspective (Part Two)

As I announced last Monday, I will be doing a couple of posts on what it was like to have current presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg as mayor (and particularly justice-related topics from his time as mayor). This is the first of two such posts, as honestly, I have too much material to fit into one post.

This first post will focus on his treatment of other people while he was mayor, particularly his treatment of people of color, Muslims, women, and the poor. Buckle up, because this is going to be rough…

While he has apologized repeatedly for the existence of stop-and-frisk under his police force while he was mayor, I think it’s difficult to talk about his time as mayor without talking about that practice. The practice, which allowed police to stop someone temporarily to search, question, and detain someone, disproportionately targeted people of color. Consider the fact that, in the 2010 United States Census, African Americans made up under 23 percent of the total New York City population[1] but consistently accounted for over half of stops.[2] My family’s experiences match up with these statistics—while my brother, and I, and our white friends, never got stopped-and-frisked, my younger brother heard horror stories of friends of color in middle school (kids who were 11 or 12 years old) getting stopped-and-frisked by the New York Police Department, even though they (like nearly 90% of those stopped at that time) were doing nothing wrong! Mayor Bloomberg may’ve apologized for the practice,[3] but the apology does not undo the damage done to my brother’s friends who were stopped, among many others. The apology does not take away the fact that his police force basically treated black and brown kids like accused criminals.

Nor does the apology undo other racist practices under the Bloomberg administration. It does not undo the fact that Bloomberg’s education policies deepened segregation in New York City schools[4]—something he has not apologized for to my knowledge. He also has not apologized for the fact that his Department of Education created policies that denied educational opportunities to people who were thought to be black, including my brother![5] He has not apologized for the disinvestment in public housing in New York City[6]—relevant because the population of public housing in New York is overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic.[7] And he has not apologized for saying that the end of redlining, “a practice used by banks to discriminate against minority borrowers,” led to the 2008 economic crisis.[8]

People of color weren’t the only people the Bloomberg administration discriminated against. He had and still seems to have an Islamophobic streak, for Bloomberg’s New York Police Department also had extreme levels of surveillance of Muslims.[9] When he repeatedly says that his one regret is stop-and-frisk, it also means that he does not regret the discrimination of Muslims through this surveillance. That’s very telling.

For those of my readers interested in women’s issues and women’s rights, Bloomberg repeatedly struggled with sexism while he was mayor. Here’s an excerpt from an article at The Atlantic, a lot of which includes remarks he made while he was mayor:

There’s more: Bloomberg reportedly saying to a journalist and the journalist’s friend, as he gazed at a woman at a holiday party, “Look at the ass on her.” (He denied having made that comment.) Bloomberg, according to a top aide, seeing attractive women and reflexively remarking, “Nice tits.” Bloomberg, mocking Christine Quinn, the then-speaker of New York’s City Council, for going too long between hair colorings. (“The couple of days a week before I need to get my hair colored,” Quinn once said, “he’ll say, ‘Do you pay a lot to make your hair be two colors? Because now it’s three with the gray.’”) Bloomberg mocking Quinn again, she said, for failing to wear heels at public events. (“I was at a parade with him once and he said, ‘What are those?’ and I said, ‘They’re comfortable,’ and he said, ‘I never want to hear those words out of your mouth again.’”)[10]

The same article I just cited also went into the culture of sexism at his company, and it is no secret that Bloomberg faces numerous allegations of fostering a hostile work environment for women at his company[11] (something Senator Elizabeth Warren exposed in the recent debate). While my piece focuses on what it was like to have him as mayor, I don’t want people to forget about the workplace hostility against many women at Bloomberg, the company.

As for the poor, Mayor Bloomberg advocated for policies that hurt the poor. He argued for a tax on sugary soft drinks, which would have disproportionately affected the poor. He defended the proposed tax, even though he acknowledged that the tax would disproportionately hurt the poor![12] That, along with a lack of investment in public housing (which I previously mentioned) and the increasing unaffordability of the city while he was mayor,[13] show that he was not a friend of the poor.

There is probably even more that I’m missing here, but you probably get the point by now: unless you are white, somewhat wealthy, male, and not Muslim, Mayor Bloomberg was not an advocate for you.

And yet, I have even more injustices to say about Bloomberg as mayor even beyond his treatment of others. To be continued…


[1] https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/planning-level/nyc-population/census2010/t_pl_p3_nyc.pdf

[2] https://www.nyclu.org/en/stop-and-frisk-data. Also, for those who deny the existence of white privilege, consider the fact that whites make up a third of New York’s population but only about 10% of stops.

[3] https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/17/politics/michael-bloomberg-stop-and-frisk-apology/index.html

[4] https://brooklyneagle.com/articles/2019/11/25/michael-bloomberg-is-running-for-president-what-you-should-know-about-the-billionaires-education-record-in-new-york-city/

[5] My brother is white, like me, but the education system in New York thought my brother was black. It’s a long story. Read this old post of mine to view the story: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2018/04/24/institutional-racism-series-how-it-affected-where-i-went-to-school/

[6] https://www.cssny.org/news/entry/a-marshall-plan-for-nycha

[7] Even though this statistic was from 2017, a few years after Bloomberg left office, from my understanding, these statistics are also a reflection of what the demographics were like when Bloomberg was mayor: https://furmancenter.org/files/NYCHA_Diversity_Brief_Final-04-30-2019.pdf

[8] https://apnews.com/8cbb1fafbb4faf01e8d9571363979501

[9] https://www.cnn.com/2012/02/21/us/new-york-muslim-surveillance/index.html

[10] https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/09/mike-bloomberg-comments-women-metoo/570448/

[11] https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/09/mike-bloomberg-comments-women-metoo/570448/

[12]https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/12/05/michael_bloomberg_tax_the_poor_for_their_own_good_141890.html

[13] https://www.wnyc.org/story/304422-new-york-remade-city-more-desirable-ever-also-too-expensive-many/

The Fight for African American Civil Rights is Not Over

When my brother and I went through the educational system, we were taught that the big fight for African American civil rights was in the 1950s and 1960s…and then there was nothing on that fight after then.

That is somewhat understandable, because several of the most significant court decisions and pieces of legislation on African American civil rights in the history of the United States happened/passed in the 1950s and 1960s.

However, the fight for African American civil rights is far from over, and in fact, in a number of ways, the United States has seemingly gone backward on African American civil rights.

There is clearly a disconnect going on here, between what some people believe and what the reality is.

Below are three of the common[1] beliefs about African American civil rights that are incorrect. Those incorrect beliefs are in bold and the answers to those incorrect beliefs are in regular text:

  1. We have gone forward on voting rights in recent decades. Actually, the United States has gone backward on voting rights for African Americans. Several years ago, the United States Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since then, many hundreds of voting sites have closed down, an overwhelming majority of them being in African American communities.[2] Additionally, Voter ID laws have come into play in numerous states; these ID laws have disproportionately affected people of color.[3] If you think that voting rights for African Americans are going forward, think again.
  2. School segregation is in the past. It’s over. To the contrary, racial integration in schools has also gone backward. This Atlantic article goes into great detail about school segregation in the United States. But the TL; DR (short for too long; didn’t read) version is that school segregation is actually getting worse, and there seems to be relatively little political will to sufficiently address that fact. And that’s not just a problem in the American South—there was a whole feature story, also in The Atlantic, about how the new chancellor of the New York City schools has made desegregation of schools a major priority because segregation has become a problem in New York. The consequence is schools that are separate…and unequal.
  3. White people and people of color are treated equally under the law. That’s not true either; the criminal justice system still shows racial disparities. A study in 2017 showed that black men get 19.1% longer sentences than white men on average…for the same crimes![4] Innocent African Americans are much more likely to be wrongfully convicted than innocent people of other races—50% more likely for murder, 3 ½ times more likely for sexual assault, and a staggering 12 times more likely for drug crimes.[5] The disparities may not come as a surprise for many, but the magnitude of the disparities may catch some off-guard—while also demonstrating that the United States has a long way to go on criminal justice issues.

Some people may yet argue that the fight for African American civil rights is over, and that anyone who believes otherwise is somehow holding on to misplaced bitterness. However, during this Black History Month, I argue that actually, it’s far from over. To the contrary, we’re going backward, whether people realize it or not.


[1] Note that this list is not comprehensive. In order to keep this post relatively short, I narrowed it down to three key areas where the fight for African American civil rights is clearly not over.

[2] https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/09/04/polling-places-remain-a-target-ahead-of-november-elections

[3] https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/09/04/polling-places-remain-a-target-ahead-of-november-elections

[4] https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/black-men-sentenced-time-white-men-crime-study/story?id=51203491

[5] http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/Race_and_Wrongful_Convictions.pdf