On Friday, June 28, 2013, Michael Bloomberg, then serving out the last few months of twelve loooong years as mayor of New York City, made one of those comments on his weekly radio show that politicians sometimes make when circumstances have forced their hand on a policy position that is neither tenable nor reversible. For some years stop-and-frisk had outraged citizens over baldly racist N.Y. Police Dept. practices of detaining minority citizens, policies that yielded superficial improvements in crime statistics as well as a great deal of busywork for police officers. Rather than own up to the inherent disgrace in treating minorities as criminals, Bloomberg reached for one of those counterintuitive defenses politicians sometimes favor when they’re about to dismiss the rights of a great number of people.
Bloomberg said, “We disproportionately stop whites too much. And minorities too little.”
The next day, in the curious “headline-ese” of the N.Y. Daily News, that sentiment ran as follows:
Democratic candidate for mayor Bill de Blasio, then still in a primary hunt, blasted that statement, and some observers have credited that specific moment of distancing himself from the excesses of the Bloomberg administration with his later electoral victories. Four months later, Bill de Blasio, famously married to an African-American woman and the father of two biracial (and highly entertaining) children, was elected mayor of New York, a choice that was widely seen as a rebuke to Bloomberg’s handling of the NYPD. The era of stop-and-frisk was over—at least so went the hope. We all know that such policies have a way of being tenacious. (De Blasio has had considerable success in reducing the policy.)
Suffice to say that while the rest of the country might find all of this rather picayune, a certain subset of liberal New Yorkers remembers those months fondly. De Blasio became the first staunchly “liberal” mayor of the city since unfortunate David Dinkins, the only African-American mayor the city has ever had, who had the misfortune to preside at the absolute pinnacle of the crack epidemic and a major recession. His perceived failures ushered in Rudy Giuliani, who, suffice to say, looked a whole lot better at the time. In any case, Bloomberg’s comment, the headline, it all is a product of one of those charged moments that maybe only New Yorkers care about (even if they do become noticed by the nation at large): Bernie Goetz, Lizzie Grubman, Sully Sullenberger, Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, Robin Byrd….
Enter Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu, of the currently defunct and oddly timely NYC alt-hip hop outfit Das Racist. He’s designed a T-shirt with the Daily News cover. You can get a T-shirt for $20 and a sweatshirt for $40. As Dapwell says on the site, “Remember this guy? Remember when he said this shitty thing? ... Commemorate New York City’s gone but (sadly) not forgotten Mayor Mike with one of these high quality, screen-printed, and 100% ultra cotton sweatshirts and t-shirts featuring the ACTUAL June 29, 2013 cover of the Daily News.”
Rush as fast as you can to get one, because there ain’t many left—indeed, it may be too late. Dapwell says that there is “VERY LIMITED QUANTITY”—no kidding, just yesterday he said on Twitter that there’s just one sweatshirt left and “a dozen” shirts.