Don Lemon’s question to presidential candidates about how to “heal the racist divide in America” was the closest the 10 Democrats in Detroit Tuesday night got to debating the epidemic of police brazenly killing Black people without consequence. But that wasn’t the case last month when an even larger group of Democratic White House hopefuls singled out South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his [mis]handling of a controversial shooting of a Black man.
So why then has New York Mayor Bill de Blasio avoided the same level of scrutiny during his lone debate appearance on June 26. I am, of course, referring to the NYPD’s public execution of Eric Garner, a killing recorded and filmed on video for the world to see how little the city’s police force values Black life.
Prior to the last debate, a farce of an NYPD administrative trial for Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who employed the illegal and ultimately deadly chokehold on Garner, ended without any resolution. Since the last debate, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr declined to bring federal charges against Pantaleo. The very next day was the five-year anniversary of what many people have called a murder. Throughout it all, de Blasio has been mum.
As Pantaleo remains a very high paid member of the NYPD, people hoping for any semblance of justice and hoping Garner’s death would not be in vain were looking to de Blasio to at the very least fire the officer. But de Blasio hasn’t acted. In fact, New York City Public Advocate and former City Councilmember Jumaane Williams penned a scathing, damning timeline recounting at least 11 times de Blasio “failed to hold Officer Daniel Pantaleo to account.”
Should the topic of how to “heal the racist divide in America” come up again in the second installment of the second round of Democratic debates on Wednesday night, why on earth wouldn’t anybody bring up Garner as an example of the persistent trend of police killing unarmed Black people?
Twitter users asked the same question in the hours ahead of Wednesday night’s debate, saying in part that Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, deserves to be treated with the dignity that has been missing from the ordeal.
While some gave De Blasio glowing marks for his performance in the first debate, others took umbrage at how he used his half-Black son to redirect the conversation on race — twice — to himself despite appearing to distance himself from the Garner case.
But the bottom line is that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Buttigieg may not be handling the shooting of 54-year-old Eric Logan in the most ideal way, but he does appear to be addressing it. In fact, he was forced to do so on the debate stage on national TV.
That’s why Wednesday night is the perfect chance for de Blasio to also explain himself and his inactions to the country that he has unrealistic ambitions of leading.
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