Friday, January 9, 2015

De Blasio, the Police, and Race

The current confrontation between the New York City Police Benevolent Association and Mayor Bill de Blasio is a confrontation between black and white thinking about race, and a more complex racial reality.  On January 7, 2015, Former Police Officer Steve Osborne wrote an op-ed entitled "Why We're So Mad at de Blasio."  He wrote as if he spoke for a "we" that included all police officers.  In the article he wrote: "It did not help to tell the world about instructing his son, Dante, who is biracial, to be wary of the police, or to publicly signal support of anti-police protesters (for instance, by standing alongside the Rev. Al Sharpton, a staunch backer of the protests)." 

Some questions:  Does Steve Osborne identify as white?
Does he think he is speaking for all police officers, black and white and various shades of brown?
Would de Blasio have advised his son to be "wary" of the police if he thought of his son as white, as opposed to "biracial"?
Was de Blasio advising his son to be wary of all police officers, black and white?
Are protests against police brutality inherently "anti-police?"
Could "protest" be reframed as consciousness raising?  If so, whose consciousness?  
Do all white police officers agree with Osborne? If not, where are the dissenting voices?
Where are the voices of black police officers and those who identify as Latino, Asian, and so on?

Bill de Blasio, like Barack Obama, embodies the emerging complex racial reality of the twenty first century.  Di Blasio's father was of German origin, his mother of Italian origin. De Blasio was raised primarily by his mother and her family.  He changed his name from his father's "Wilhelm" to his mother's  "De Blasio" in adulthood.  He married and had children with an African-American woman.  He can speak with many voices, but has yet to do so in a way that can help the people of New York City, the United States, and the world to transcend polarizing prejudice-generating racial categories. 

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