Rudy's Milky Way

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

The city's Equal Employment Practices Commission, a quasi-independent body that is supposed to monitor minority hiring, said in its annual report in 1996 that it "looked forward to a meeting with Rudy Giuliani" to discuss the draft of a new equal opportunity plan. Even though the city charter requires both a plan and a mayoral consultation with the EEPC, according to Abe May, the commission's executive director, "none ever occurred." Jointly appointed by the mayor and the council, the mildly critical commission Rudy would not meet with is, to this day, chaired by Charlie Hughes, the scandal-scarred D.C. 37 union president who appeared in Giuliani television ads in 1997.

Yet Priscilla Wooten, the city councilwoman who endorsed Giuliani last year and was the only leader surveyed by the Voice to praise him without caveat, tells the story of how her husband was recently awakened from a daytime nap on the porch of their East New York home by a tap on the shoulder. Wooten's husband "thought he was dreaming when he saw Rudy smiling in his face," the councilwoman said. All it takes is a lot of amens, and Rudy is, after all, willing to minister to a select black flock.

As painfully apparent as this chasm is, the Times's endorsement of Giuliani last year did not make a single cautionary mention of race. When Reverend Calvin Butts, a prominent Harlem minister, branded the mayor a racist this May, a Times editorial characterized Giuliani's relationship with minorities merely as one "marked by clumsiness and needless tension."

While the Times has acknowledged that blacks "feel bruised and excluded" by the administration, the paper of record has yet to examine Giuliani's antiblack underside in any comprehensive or ongoing fashion. Remarkably, black estrangement drew far more attention in the less- polarized Koch era, and David Dinkins absorbed three nonstop years of media body blows as a supposed anti-Semite. Yet the whiteout of the Giuliani story— in the Times and elsewhere— has marginalized blacks, misinformed whites, and allowed Rudy to continue to portray himself, like he did in his now laughable 1993 campaign slogan, as the mayor of "one standard, one city."

The Times has brilliantly dissected Giuliani's welfare agenda, for example, but it hasn't connected these policies to his overall impact on blacks, thereby contributing to the color-blind camouflage concealing the administration's seemingly irresistible targets. The paper's excellent coverage of Giuliani's overnight evacuation of the Neponsit nursing home in Queens last year, resulting in daily $3050 fines by federal health authorities for violations of commonsense safety regulations, did not mention that most of the evicted residents who appeared at a City Council hearing were elderly blacks living with every kind of affliction.

When the Council of Black Elected Officials convened in Harlem shortly after the Million Youth March to assail Giuliani as "unconscionable" and to claim he'd given their request for a meeting "the back of his hand," no city daily wrote a word. The council includes officials representing 2.5 million people.

Black voices of outrage are seldom aired. Distilled facts are presented again and again in story after story. All that's missing is the context of continuous attack that most black New Yorkers now understand instinctively.

Indeed, Rudy has managed to so bury the race question— converting anyone who raises it into a proverbial arsonist— that even his liberal opponent last year, Ruth Messinger, seldom dared. Only the brutality issue is regularly presented in unavoidably racial terms.

But even there, Giuliani's incident-by-incident indifference, the sacking of his own post­Abner Louima task force, his resistance to a twice-passed council bill for an independent commission, and his police commissioner's rejection of abuse cases substantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board have hardly become a media measure of him. White editorial boards forget black agony over this five-year mountain of CCRB complaints, which increased again in the data that was released last week, when they write their periodic paeans to the mayor.

Rudy kept at his side a deputy mayor whose "watermelon" reference to a black-owned financial company and "two-white-men-have-run-New-York-for-200-years" comments were called "racist" by the Times. He said nothing during an on-air appearance with his then-friend Bob Grant when Grant called Congressman Charlie Rangel a "pygmy." Asked by The Washington Post to defend his record on minorities, he said: "They're alive, how about we start with that," which he later explained as a reference to plunging homicide rates. He was once quoted as saying that it would be "a good thing" if poor people "left the city," conceding that driving them out of town through welfare cuts was "not an unspoken part of our strategy; it is our strategy."

In his first months in office, he eliminated the special assistants who acted as liaisons to particular ethnic groups, including blacks, but the worst-kept secret at City Hall was that one of his top aides continued to perform that function with the Jewish community for years. He also wiped out Dinkins's set-aside program for women and minority contractors, promising to increase minority contracting without any formal preference program. He has never offered a scintilla of evidence since then that he's done that.

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