Did Michael Bloomberg really say this? The answer is — yes, but. I’m no fan of the Mayor of Nannyville and the general of all gun-grabbers, but this demonstrates why sound-bite culture bites. That quote gets taken grossly out of context to push a headline that is at best unreflective of Bloomberg’s actual point, nor of his actions in regard to the issue. At worst, it’s a reprehensible smear leveraging a political-correctness approach that conservatives profess to loathe. And for good reason.
In 2011, Bloomberg launched his Young Men’s Initiative, a program designed to deal with disparities of opportunity for young minority males in New York City. Bloomberg put $30 million of his own cash into it, George Soros put another $30 million, and the city added $67 million of its own. As PBS’ Jeffrey Brown puts its, Bloomberg launched it with a speech that argued “blacks and Latinos are not fully sharing in the promise of American freedom.”
Unfortunately, Bloomberg’s description of the issue wasn’t exactly made for a sound-bite-driven national campaign. Via Mary Chastain at Legal Insurrection:
“Well, for a long time, people have said there’s nothing you can do about it, but blacks and Latinos score terribly in school testing compared to whites and Asians. If you look at our jails, it’s predominantly minorities,” Bloomberg said in the interview.
He added: “If you look at where crime takes place, it’s in minority neighborhoods. If you look at who the victims and the perpetrators are, it’s virtually all minorities. This is something that has gone on for a long time. I assume it’s prevalent elsewhere but it’s certainly true in New York City. And for many, many years, people said there’s just nothing you can do about it.”
“Nevertheless, there’s this enormous cohort of black and Latino males, age, let’s say, 16 to 25,” Bloomberg said, “that don’t have jobs, don’t have any prospects, don’t know how to find jobs, don’t know what their skill sets are, don’t know how to behave in the workplace where they have to work collaboratively and collectively.”
“There will be jobs, if we can get these kids – uh, get their families together, even if their fathers don’t live with their mothers, or have never been married, or even they’re in jail, get the fathers engaged,” Bloomberg added. “Lot of statistics show that if the father is engaged, it gives the kid some understanding that he’s heading down the wrong path – and assign mentors to them.”
He went on: “A lot of these kids – it isn’t that they’re bad kids – it’s that once they’ve made a mistake, it’s very difficult to recover from that. But we have an obligation to them – if not for compassionate reasons, just for selfish reasons. Three-quarters of all kids in New York City that go to jail serve a period and come out, go right back to jail. Three-quarters of them. … We’ve just got to break that cycle.”
Emphasis mine. Bloomberg clearly wasn’t arguing that black and Latino males were inherently incapable of behaving in the workplace. He was arguing that they had not been properly prepared to do so, either through a lack of education, broken families, poverty, street crime, or a combination thereof. The whole point of his Young Men’s Initiative was to provide that training to those who lack those skills and make them competitive in the labor market. If anything, this was Bloomberg’s critique about urban decay and NYC itself, one with which many conservatives would probably agree.
Whether one agrees with programs of this type, or whether this particular program succeeded, is irrelevant. If we can’t discuss public policy without slicing words out of context to paint people as racists, then we can’t govern ourselves or debate weightier issues than the existence of Santa Claus. Conservatives have a long history of getting victimized by this intellectually dishonest sophistry, including a few people who appear on Fox News. We should oppose it even when the victims are our political opponents, too. Otherwise, it’s just another area in which brute-force majoritarianism wins — and we’re already on an uneven playing field when it comes to national media.
Besides, Bloomberg provides us with plenty of legitimate points for criticism. Let’s not dissipate our credibility on fake news like this.