By Charles D. Ellison
With all the chatter and excitement surrounding New York City’s black first lady, Chirlane McCray, you’d think it was verboten to talk about anything else when it comes to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. To hear the pundit class talk, you wouldn’t think de Blasio was elected—you’d think his wife was.
Which is just fine—if all you’re paying attention to is the strobe lights, bells and whistles that come with such novel political stories.
Sure, it’s a great narrative, reading something like a side script out of faux political thriller Scandal. And speaking as the Gen X child of a black mother and white father, I’m glad to see folks finally coming around to what is really nothing new. Growing up in racially polarized Philadelphia all those years, I watched my parents busily fending off bigoted cops, disapproving glares and the ugly racialism of a society that couldn’t bear to fathom an inevitable social norm. Maybe Dad should have just run for mayor.
But back to politics: That doesn’t exactly resolve the question of what to expect from the next mayor of the largest city in the United States. Remember, anything that goes in a city of nearly 9 million is pretty consequential for the rest of the nation, not to mention New York’s global ramifications as a planetary center of commerce.
And while people of color, particularly African Americans, are currently fixated on the biracial first family of New York City, there’s little attention being paid to what’s certain to be a very dramatic and somewhat volatile transition from 20 years of mostly Republican and/or independent rule in the Big Apple to a Democratic mayor who campaigned—and now might be slipping on—a progressive agenda.
Getting rid of New York City’s infamous stop-and-frisk rule was a top-three campaign priority, a promise that catapulted de Blasio from polling obscurity to a very public political love affair with the city’s blacks and Latinos. But he rushed to hire former New York City police commissioner and stop-and-frisk originator William Bratton as current chief Ray Kelly’s replacement—his first high-profile Cabinet hire.