Rudy's Milky Way

An Administration 'Of, For, and By White People' Has No Time or Room for Blacks

 w/ special reporting by Nicole White

His world is as white as Seinfeld's, a slice of the city so comfortably one-dimensional that even the popular star of the ongoing Giuliani serial cannot see his own, peculiarly un­New York, isolation.

Not since the days of Vincent Impelliteri nearly half a century ago— through the tenures of Robert Wagner, John Lindsay, Abe Beame, Ed Koch, and David Dinkins— have there been so few black faces in high places in a city administration. Never before has 80 percent of any ethnic group rejected the reelection campaign of an incumbent mayor, as exit polls said blacks did in 1997, preferring a white woman they barely knew who had no chance to win.

And never before have more of a mayor's targets— squeegees, cabbies, street vendors, public hospital workers, welfare recipients, police-brutality victims, CUNY students, and the dispersed elderly ill from Neponsit nursing home— been so consistently of one hue while his beneficiaries— cops, firefighters, hotel operators, express-bus riders, tax-break developers, Staten Islanders, and Yankees and Jets owners— been so consistently another.

All his life Rudy Giuliani has occupied a milky universe— raised in a blanched Nassau suburb, educated at insular Bishop Loughlin High School and Manhattan College, shuttling twice between the colorless cubicles of the Justice Department in Washington and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, practicing law at three mainline firms where not just the shoes were white.

As a kid born in Brooklyn, he rooted for the all-white Yankees while Jackie Robinson crossed the color line at Ebbets Field, just a couple of miles away from his home. He so craves the familiar he married his own cousin. He quarantined Haitians in Florida camps for the Justice Department. The first home he ever bought was an apartment in the East 80s, and he has never lived, like so many white New Yorkers, on a block alive with human diversity. The only two blacks he regularly talks to at City Hall today are both named Rudy, but neither Crew nor Washington has been able to help him past his racial wall.

Now focused on a Senate race just a year or so away, he knows every button to push to reach white voters but did not, even with a bottomless campaign treasury in 1997, buy a millisecond of advertising in any black medium. One of four mayors who replaced black incumbents in recent years— including those in L.A., Chicago, and Philadelphia— he is a national emblem of urban reassurance, a tamer of the tribe. He always has his defeat of the city's first black mayor as a ready excuse for black hostility to him five years later, an alibi that saps any obligation to bridge what has become a gulf of fearful proportions.

Blacks are a grand abstraction to him. He rarely hosts town meetings in their neighborhoods. He frequently lectures them about everything from their child-rearing habits— attacking a mother for allowing her teenage son to be out bicycling at 2:30 a.m. when a cop gunned him down— to their work ethic. He's spent the year riding the sky from one Republican capital to the next, engulfed by a party so fair it cannot be fair, telling Arizonans in April that Phoenix feels "like home" and that "the issues" in that 5 percent black town "are very much the same" as in 25 percent black New York. He is never heard discussing racism or poverty as if they are real facts that a mayor could actually combat.

He is too busy crediting himself for crime reductions to ever mention that the communities ravaged a decade ago by crack and guns might have had something to do with the decline, helping to deliver themselves from a culture of death. He is certain that work resurrects the dependent even when it takes good mothers away from their children to push brooms on city streets without any promise of a genuine job. Not only is he ready with a knee-jerk benefit of the doubt virtually anytime a cop goes head-to-head with an African American, he does not appear to have a doubt.

In his first weeks in office in 1994, Giuliani refused to meet with Al Sharpton and others over a police raid at a Harlem mosque. It worked so well he's been rejecting black guests or invitations ever since. He said no when David Dinkins asked him to his home for dinner after a war of words over Crown Heights. The new borough president of Manhattan, Virginia Fields, who ran on the Liberal line with him last year and is known for her warmth and equanimity, begged for a meeting during the recent Million Youth March controversy and was instead denounced as a "coward," along with the rest of the African American leadership.

Carl McCall, the highest ranking black official in state history, takes trips to Israel with a Republican governor, but was stood-up when he tried to arrange a sit-down with the mayor. Neither did Rudy have time for the cabbies, who are now mostly African and South Asian, even when they believed by the thousands that his new taxi rules threatened their livelihoods. A Voice survey of 35 black leaders, 30 of them elected, identified many who'd reached out to the mayor on issues ranging from AIDS funding to the Harlem march, usually without so much as a callback.

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