Rudy Giuliani's racial nonsense: How he revealed a disturbing truth about America

"America's mayor" implies police swarm black communities in order to save lives. Here's the problem

By Elias Isquith
Published November 24, 2014 8:17PM (EST)
 (Reuters/Marko Djurica)
(Reuters/Marko Djurica)

Because the producers of “Meet the Press” seem to believe that the show’s recent troubles were entirely David Gregory’s fault — and not the fault of whoever is booking the same old, white conservative men, week after week after week — failed presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was a guest this past weekend. And because Giuliani is the public figure most associated with “broken windows” — which anti-racism activists and civil libertarians have long criticized as unconstitutional — the consultant to war criminals tried to make everyone talk about black-on-black crime instead. It worked completely, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows anything about the United States.

“I find it very disappointing that you’re not discussing that 93 percent of blacks in America are killed by other blacks,” Giuliani scolded. “We’re talking about the exception, here,” he continued, speaking of white officers killing African-Americans. “We are talking about the significant exception.” The veteran race-baiter then restated his 93 percent figure before adding, “I would like to see the attention paid to that that you are paying to this — and the solutions to that.” Needless to say, Georgetown’s Michael Eric Dyson’s response did not seem to make a dent, merely prompting “America’s mayor” to defensively tell the African-American Dyson that white cops wouldn’t be in black neighborhoods “if you weren't killing each other 70 percent of the time."

In fact, Giuliani was so confident that the national debate should avoid discussing police brutality and focus on what the deal is with black people instead, he joined Fox News on Monday morning to reiterate the point — and take it one step further. “The danger to a black child in America is not a white police officer,” Giuliani told Fox’s Steve Doocey, explaining why he was “very frustrated” with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. “The danger to a black child,” he added, “is another black.” Before claiming “there is virtually no homicide in the white community,” Giuliani recommended protesters — or “these people,” as he called them — “straighten out” their own communities, rather than make a big deal about a white cop possibly gunning down an unarmed and surrendering African-American teenager in the streets.

Perhaps because the looming decision of the Ferguson grand jury is in the back of most reporter’s minds, Giuliani’s comments got a lot of media attention, much more than you’d expect for a politician who hasn’t held office in nearly 15 years. What makes their prominence even more curious is their banality — at least to anyone previously familiar with grumpy old white people with opinions on race. Indeed, Giuliani’s gripe, which was obviously intended to change the conversation and victim-blame, could’ve come out of the mouths of millions of white people (Republicans and Democrats, both) and are basically an offshoot of the “culture of poverty” meme that still has elite purchase. The only thing separating Giuliani’s statements from something Archie Bunker might’ve said, in fact, is the tone, which attempts to imply his criticism is born from sorrow, not anger.

Giuliani is hardly a trailblazer in that respect; contemptuous pity disguised as sympathy is a go-to move for conservatives who pine to be “post-racial.” Since Giuliani made the case while lacking the tact of a Paul Ryan or the authority of a Thomas Sowell, though, he made it easier than usual to expose its fundamental disingenuousness. Listening to Giuliani, you’re supposed to conclude that white officers focus on African-American communities out of a concern for the safety of black people; because, in other words, other Americans values them too greatly to let their lives go to waste. But a quick glance at American society, with its racialized distribution of poverty, incarceration, sickness and lack of education, should put that theory to rest. And a cursory knowledge of U.S. history should bury it for good.

No, it’s not a deep concern and affection for black people that motivates the heavy-handed tactics of police officers across the country. Instead, what is really motivating the state here is the protection of property — and, in America, that’s usually the case. For proof, look no further than Ferguson, where the debate has mostly moved past the grand jury’s verdict (most assume they will decline to indict) and to the question of how protesters will react. The concern you hear from conservatives like Giuliani and some ostensibly non-ideological members of the media is not about whether the town’s police will repeat the performance of this summer by brutalizing citizens and brandishing deadly weapons. On the contrary, the worries center on the danger to property the protests represent. That’s the driving force behind “broken windows,” and that’s why Giuliani, former prosecutor, wants to change the conversation. It's a tough case to make.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Darren Wilson Ferguson Michael Brown Race Racism Rudy Giuliani Steve Doocy