Monday, November 05, 2007

The Divider

Via Paul Krugman, veteran political journalist Tom Edsall has the scoop on Rudy Giuliani's readying the race card as the G.O.P. continues its ongoing Philadelphia Mississippi Experiment to cling to power.

As the late New York City journalist Jack Newfield told us a few years ago, this is nothing new for Rudy:
Giuliani's lowest moment as Mayor came in March 2000, when the unarmed Patrick Dorismond was shot and killed by undercover narcotics police in midtown Manhattan. Dorismond, 26 and black, an off-duty security guard, was standing outside a bar when a plainclothes cop, part of a narcotics detail patrolling the area, tried to buy crack from him. "What are you doing asking me for that shit?" Dorismond asked.

A fight developed, and one of the cops killed him. The shooting came just three weeks after a jury had acquitted four white police officers in the death of another unarmed black man--Amadou Diallo--who was shot forty-one times on his Bronx doorstep. The cops claimed they had mistaken his wallet for a gun. So Dorismond's shooting occurred in an atmosphere of tinderbox racial tension.

At first Giuliani called for calm, asking the city to withhold judgment until all the facts were established. But the next morning he ignored his own counsel and started demonizing the dead man. Instead of trying to be fair-minded and reassuring, Giuliani made a series of prejudicial and venomous remarks about Dorismond--even before his funeral. The Mayor seemed unable to express any human sympathy for the dead man's mother, or to grasp the fact that this was a citizen of his city who was killed--by police--for saying no to drugs.

Giuliani authorized the release of Dorismond's sealed juvenile arrest record, which contained nothing more serious than a violation punishable by a summons, to discredit him. Juvenile arrest records are supposed to be kept confidential, and Giuliani violated legal ethics by breaking the seal without getting a court order. Dorismond was 13 at the time his arrest was entered into a police computer. At a press conference Giuliani argued that the dead man's conduct at age 13 was "highly relevant." Dorismond, he sneered, was "no altar boy." But Dorismond had actually been an altar boy. He had even attended the same elite Catholic high school as the Mayor--Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn.

A few nights later television journalist Dominick Carter asked Giuliani about his "no altar boy" comment. "This is not a fair question," the Mayor complained. He declared that Dorismond had "spent a good deal of his adult life punching people," and that he had a "propensity" for violence.

The Mayor's defense for opening the records was that Dorismond had no privacy rights because he was dead.

In 1993 Giuliani had run on the positive slogan "One Standard, One City." But in practice he treated the black community by a different standard. He actually argued that by ignoring New York's elected black leadership, he had been able "to accomplish more for the black community." He defended his boycott of black leaders by claiming that most of them have "a philosophy of dependence" that keeps their constituents "enslaved." On another occasion he argued that it wasn't productive to "engage in dialogue" with "political leaders that pander." But he had no trouble at all engaging in dialogue with white Republican leaders who could pander with the best of them.

Moderate black leaders like State Comptroller H. Carl McCall say they had only one or two meetings with Giuliani during his eight years in office, and those were only "for show" after the Diallo shooting, with no follow-up. McCall told me that Giuliani ignored his requests for a meeting for five years. Respected Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks says he didn't have a single meeting or even phone conversation with Giuliani in eight years.

The volatile combination of the questionable police shootings of Dorismond and Diallo, plus the police precinct torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, plus the brutal blitz of insults of Dorismond by the Mayor, plus the absence of any channel of communication between City Hall and the black community, all help explain why under Giuliani blacks felt that New York was a city with a double standard.

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