David Dinkins became the first Black mayor of New York City when he defeated then mayor Ed Koch for the Democratic nomination and went on to beat Republican Rudi Giuliani in 1989. Racial issues were a major factor in his victory. Twenty-four years later race, in the form of the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy, is again front and center. Will Bill Thompson, the only Black candidate in the running for the Democratic nomination also win the mayoralty?
Dinkins in 1989, like Thompson today, did not make his race, or racial issues, a centerpiece of his campaign. But he benefitted nonetheless from being the right person in the right place at the right time. In recent years there had been a number of unjustified killings of Black individuals by police and white mobs, the most recent being the shooting of young Yusuf Hawkins in late August in Benonhurst, Brooklyn when he and his friends were confronted by an angry mob.
As the funeral for Hawkins approached, the city was in an uproar fearing a major cataclysm, especially since Minister Louis Farrakhan was scheduled to speak. Farrakhan, of course, did not incite the people. However, he made one very potent statement. He said, “Black people for one time in your life can we stand together?” These were code words encouraging the Black community to turn out in droves and back Dave Dinkins. And they did in both the September primary and the fall election. Farrakhan knew that if he openly backed Dinkins that would likely drive down his’ white support. So he sent this coded message to the African American community.
Today Stop-and-Frisk is the burning issue. And the courts recently blasted the policy. Mayor Bloomberg, police commissioner at his side, in scenes reminiscent of Birmingham, Alabama, 50 years ago at the height of Jim Crow, has repeatedly denounced the judge, the courts and those who have staged civil rights protests against this obviously racially discriminatory policy. So, is Bill Thompson today, like David Dinkins in 1989, the right man in the right place at the right time?
Not quite. Thompson is on record as largely supporting Stop-and-Frisk, while white candidate Bill DiBlasio, who has a Black wife and is running commercials prominently featuring his teenage son with a huge afro, has for quite awhile been a firm opponent of Stop-and-Frisk. Even Christine Quinn, the establishment candidate and the protégé of Bloomberg, has somewhat distanced herself from that now discredited policy. Thompson may have thought that he could curry favor with whites by supporting it, and at the same time get the Black vote by default. However, the courts’ firm rebuke of Stop-and-Frisk, coupled with DiBlasio’s long-standing opposition to it, would seem to preclude Thompson’s surviving the primary in September, let alone winning the mayoralty. Mayor Bloomberg recently foolishly attacked DiBlasio’s ads showing his family, as racist, which will only boost DiBlasio’s standing and help insure his victory. ( by Arthur Lewin, www.AfricaUnlimited.com )