Posted on November 19, 2019

Michael Bloomberg and the Tradition of Expecting Black Forgiveness

Brandon Tensley, CNN, November 18, 2019

Michael Bloomberg at National Action Network

Michael Bloomberg (Credit Image: AFGE / Wikimedia)

It’s a prevailing assumption: Black Americans will reliably forgive.

On Sunday, Michael Bloomberg apologized for the New York Police Department’s promotion of “stop and frisk,” a controversial policing strategy that disproportionately affected black and Latino men and was a pillar of the former mayor’s approach to crime control for more than a decade.

“Over time, I’ve come to understand something that I long struggled to admit to myself: I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong,” Bloomberg said to the congregation of a predominantly black church in Brooklyn. “I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.”

Bloomberg continued: “I now see that we could and should have acted sooner and acted faster to cut the stops. I wish we had. I’m sorry that we didn’t. But I can’t change history. However, today, I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” (Former New York Gov. David Paterson told The New York Post on Monday that Bloomberg privately questioned “stop and frisk” to him on two occasions.)

For one thing, Bloomberg is operating with a limber definition of the past: But I can’t change history. Back then. As many have pointed out, it was only in January that he defended “stop and frisk,” underscoring that “the result of (the tactic) was, over the years, the murder rate in New York City went from 650-a-year to 300-a-year when I left.”


In this light, Bloomberg’s heel turn registers as a self-dealing attempt to garner support from a key Democratic constituency — black voters — as he considers launching a formal 2020 bid. Or as New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams put it: “Forgive many of us for questioning apologies a decade late and on the eve of a presidential run.”


Despite the harm “stop and frisk” inflicted on racial minorities during his tenure, the former mayor seems to be betting on forgiveness as he imagines a path to the White House.