Sean Murphy and Deepti Hajela, Associated Press, January 19, 2020
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg made a pitch to African American voters the day before the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., visiting the site of a race massacre nearly 100 years ago that left hundreds dead and the city’s thriving African American community in rubble.
The former New York City mayor spoke out against an American history of race-based economic inequality from slavery to segregation to redlining, and outlined an proposal aimed at increasing the number of black-owned homes and businesses. The plan includes a $70 billion investment in the nation’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
“For black Americans, there was nothing that white landowners, businesses, banks, and politicians might not take: Their wages and their homes, their businesses and their wealth, their votes and their power, and even their lives,” Bloomberg said during a speech to several hundred people at the Greenwood Cultural Center, which houses artifacts and other memorabilia from the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.
The plan offers incentives for investment in underserved communities, increases support for black-owned banks and ties federal housing money to progress in reducing segregation. It would require bias training for police, teachers and federal contractors, and address voter disenfranchisement practices such as ID requirements, poll purging and gerrymandering.
“As someone who has been very lucky in life, I often say my story would only have been possible in America, and I think that’s true,” Bloomberg said. “But I also know that my story would have turned out very differently if I had been black, and that more black Americans of my generation would have ended up with far more wealth, had they been white.”
Bloomberg also pledged to back a commission to study whether black Americans should receive reparations for slavery.