Last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the billionaire preached his plans to an African-American congregation at the site where the 1921 Tulsa race riots occurred.
Bloomberg promised massive investments to close the racial wealth gap in America. His campaign added that a Bloomberg-government would pump $70 billion to that effect.
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The promises were a flurry, including a plan to set up one million black families with opportunities to buy homes, double the number of businesses owned by African-Americans as well as triple the net worth of black families.
At present, the average black family earns one-tenth of what white families do.
What happened in Tulsa was planned in part as a moral epiphany. It was clear what Bloomberg’s campaign went for – a white man who understands America’s original sins of slavery and racial discrimination.
As part of his pitch, Bloomberg acknowledged his white privilege.
“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.”
“But I also know that my story might 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,” he said.
He continued that instead, African-Americans have been “excluded from opportunities in housing, in employment, education, and other areas.”
To acknowledge one’s white privilege in a presidential run is a sign of the progress the debate has made in modern American politics. Hitherto, the evils of America’s social engineering on race would have been muted.
This also puts Bloomberg in a more curious position having supported the racially biased policing technique of stop-and-frisk in New York when he was the city’s mayor.
Officers took advantage of what was described as a preemptive measure to target young people of color, usually black, and harassed them.
Bloomberg has come around to the harms of stop-and-frisk even as New York police have had to give it up. He admits to being wrong after years insisting otherwise.
As Al Sharpton and others have agreed, Bloomberg is saying the things that he needs to say to America’s black people. He appears to understand the political purposes of regret and refocus.
The numbers, however, do not reflect an African-American preference for Bloomberg. While Joe Biden leads with black people over the age of 35, Bernie Sanders enjoys massive appeal among those younger.
The Bloomberg campaign can attribute that to his late entry into the competition. What would matter to them is that Bloomberg is getting the impediments out of his way before Super Tuesday.
One thing that also counts in his corner is the support Bloomberg enjoys among moderate Democrats who may not see his public service as problematic as Sanders’ or Biden’s.
Bloomberg realizes what he cannot do without and he is out to get it. We can only wait to see if black people would give him the absolution he seeks.