Many Black New Yorkers Are Seeing de Blasio’s Victory as Their Own

Michael M. Grynbaum, New York Times, November 11, 2013

A black janitor in Brooklyn almost shouted out the name when asked about his vote in the mayoral race. Bill de Blasio, he said, “knows my struggle.”

In the Bronx, some African-American voters defaulted to a shorthand: “the man with the black wife.” Nobody thought it necessary to explain whom they meant.

And in a Brooklyn housing project, a lifelong resident said he was tired of mayors who, in his mind, had pitted blacks against whites. Mr. de Blasio, he declared, “is black and white.”

Of all the records shattered by Mr. de Blasio’s landslide victory, perhaps the most remarkable is that virtually every vote cast by black New Yorkers—96 percent—went his way. He captured a bigger portion of the black vote than David N. Dinkins in 1989 when he was elected New York City’s first black mayor with 91 percent of the black vote, according to exit polls.

After the divisive tenor of the Giuliani years, and the deep grievances engendered by the stop-and-frisk police tactics of the Bloomberg era, black New Yorkers are now claiming Mr. de Blasio’s victory as their own. In postelection interviews, dozens of black New Yorkers said that Mr. de Blasio’s personal touch, his biracial family and his pledge to help the working-class and poor had affected them deeply. His victory, they said, was a chance to gain a voice in City Hall after two decades of leadership they viewed as inattentive, distant and, at times, even callous.

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The excitement about Mr. de Blasio—tinged, in some quarters, by a dose of wait-and-see skepticism—was diligently cultivated by the candidate. Mr. de Blasio, who is of Italian and German heritage, kept up a brisk schedule of visits to predominantly black churches, frequently spoke of the effect of stop-and-frisk tactics on young black men, and put his wife and children at the forefront of his campaign, making a celebrity of his son, Dante, who sports a large Afro.

But it was also a result of Mr. de Blasio’s comfort and fluency with black culture, borne of an interracial marriage and personal experience, that offered a credibility voters said could not be bought by consultants or simulated in sound bites.

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With all that good will, of course, comes high expectations. “Ninety-six percent of the African-American vote went to him,” said the Rev. Johnnie M. Green Jr., senior pastor at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem. “He should feel some sense of being beholden to the black community.”

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