Monday, March 12, 2012

Bloomberg's Dedication to All-White Fire Department Proves Costly

The racial discrimination in hiring at the FDNY that persisted under Mayor Bloomberg (despite efforts from his allies to convince him to abandon the practice and despite a law suit by the Bush Administration) is going to be costly for NYC taxpayers.

$128 Million Price Tag

The Federal Judge overseeing the Bush Administration's suit (continued under Obama) against New York City for racial discrimination has imposed a fine of $128 million. The amount is calculated as the amount of wages the would-be fire fighters would have earned if there had been no racial discrimination. The payment will be made to the applicants who became the victims of the discrimination, but it will be reduced by the wages that the victims earned in other jobs since the time that they were excluded by the racially discriminatory practices of the FDNY. Therefore, the final total will be less than $128 million.

Ironically, Bloomberg's determination to avoid racially integrating the FDNY is going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars and hasn't created any problems for Bloomberg himself. He has been able to discriminated based on race with impunity. His allies have not held him accountable, and the electorate has kept him in office for a decade.

As Errol Louis said, "Many credible institutions tried, with zero success, to convince Bloomberg and Scoppetta that the fire exam needed a reworking. The city's own Equal Employment Practices Commission, an independent watchdog, presented City Hall with a long account of nearly a decade's worth of complaints about the fire test and a plea to re-examine it. They were ignored. The federal Justice Department under the Bush administration sued the city after issuing strong warnings about the need to desegregate the FDNY. Bloomberg fought the feds in court. Why Bloomberg's high-profile black and Latino supporters don't call him on the carpet and demand an end to the spin and denial, I have no idea."

Bloomberg's Ongoing Fight for the All-White FDNY

 Of course, rather than pay what he owes and end the discrimination, Bloomberg has vowed to fight the latest ruling. Only 3% of the FDNY's brave professionals are Black, and preventing that number from rising is a key goal of the Bloomberg administration.

We should not be surprised.

Bloomberg has had a decade to end the discrimination and has instead embraced it. He was sued by the Bush Administration because his racial discrimination was too severe for even a Republican President to ignore. He has set records each year for police stops of innocent people of color. He moved gifted and talented schools out of communities of color. He has assembled the least inclusive and most white administration our city has seen in modern times.

In the end, reducing opportunities for Black and Latino New Yorkers and increasing the burdens on Black and Latino communities are Bloomberg's signature achievements. As his time as Mayor winds down, he seems to be treating any potential reduction in the level of racial discrimination in our city as a direct attack on his legacy. Skin color has become his primary focus.

His predecessor developed a reputation for racial animosity. Giuliani helped lead a rally in which Mayor Dinkins was called "a washroom attendant", and in which racial slurs were tolerated. Giuliani refused to meet with Black elected officials. But, while Giuliani seemed to embrace racial confrontation to win the votes of those who hate people of color, Bloomberg seems to focus on actually harming the prospects of people of color. Bloomberg's obsession with racial discrimination seems aimed less at gaining votes from racists but rather aimed at fulfilling some psychic need in the Mayor himself to hold back the progress of Black and Latino individuals while undermining any sense of empowerment or progress that may be emerging in Black and Latino communities.

We are amazed that in 2012, the Mayor of New York City would be in court defending efforts to exclude people of color from the FDNY. Even if he feels personally wedded to an all-white fire department, the Mayor must realize that our city and our country are beyond those days. Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947 (the US military was integrated in 1948). Sixty five years after Jackie Robinson "broke the color line" and sixty four years after the US military ended its racial separatism practices, we are running NYC based on skin color. One skin color is allocated jobs in the administration and in the FDNY. Other skin colors are abused with non-stop interrogations by law enforcement and are excluded from administration jobs and FDNY opportunities. Certain skin colors have been declared synonymous with criminality. Bloomberg's own skin color has not suffered that fate.

We live in NYC in 2012 and endure a race-based approach to governing NYC that seems more appropriate for 1912.

As Bloomberg's fighting to keep the FDNY all white and to keep his stop-and-frisk attacks targeted again only non-white New Yorkers, we hope New Yorkers will ask him to move his views into the modern era and move beyond his obsession with racial discrimination.

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