Black New Yorker's Open Letter to Mayor Giuliani
September 29, 2001
Dear Mayor Giuliani,
You have done a great job holding everything together in
our city in the wake of the unconscionable attack against
us on September 11th. I saw you on TV running for your life
as the buildings fell. You held seemingly around-the-clock
press conferences to keep us updated on the latest. You locked
down the transit and traffic situation right away. You reminded
us not to beat up our Middle Eastern and Arab neighbors. You
struck the right tone throughout.
I'm not surprised, I guess, to read in the paper today that
you wish to remain in office beyond the statutorily-defined
end of your term, which is currently slated to expire at the
end of 2001. As an African-American resident of our great
city, I think I speak for most of my community when I say,
"Uh, that won't be necessary."
Apparently you said yesterday that you wanted to stay on
to "maintain the unity that exists in the city." You probably
heard a loud thud right around that time. That was us falling
off of our chairs in laughter. Given all that you have done
over the last eight years to obliterate "unity" in our city,
Mr. Mayor, we have a hard time suddenly envisioning you as
unity's champion. These are a few of the highlights we recall:
In your first months in office, you eliminated the special
assistants that act as liaisons to the city's various ethnic
groups. For over a year you refused to return the phone calls
of Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, who is
black, after explicitly promising to reach out to this city's
minority community following your 1997 re-election. You also
refused to return the calls of State Comptroller H. Carl McCall,
who is black, for something like three years. Your inappropriately-named
spokeswoman, Sunny Mandel, hung up the phone on a reporter
for the newspaper Newsday who had the gall to ask about your
relationship with the city's African-American and Latino communities.
You sent the unmistakable message to your police force that
no amount of unjustified force, when applied to the city's
black and Latino youth, will be penalized in any meaningful
way. That's why Officer Francis Livotti, despite having more
than a dozen civilian complaints of excessive force on his
record, was still patrolling streets the day he decided to
choke a Latino teenager to death over a football inadvertently
hitting the officer's car. That's why four undercover cops
were predisposed to see Amadou Diallo's wallet as gun, leading
them to vaporize him in a hail of 41 bullets. That's why one
of your search-and-destroy undercover cops felt free to gun
down Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed black man, because he had
the temerity to physically resist another undercover's efforts
to get Dorismond to sell him drugs. Dorismond, as you remember,
was not a drug dealer, and had no drugs on him.
I recall that your response to the Diallo shooting was to
dismiss as "silly" those of us who protested the tactics of
the police. I recall also that your response to the outrage
over the Dorismond shooting was to illegally unseal and distribute
his juvenile arrest record - which contained no major convictions
- in an effort to demonize him.
(I know you think you were doing your best to fight crime
in our great city. But I also know that several other cities,
most famously Boston, saw reductions in crime at least as
large as ours, without unleashing their police to traumatize
their minority communities.)
By the way, one doesn't have to be a minority to find the
image of you as the custodian of "unity" absolutely ludicrous.
One just needs a memory that extends beyond September 11th.
Such people will remember moments such as these:
You refused a permit to the AIDS advocacy group Housing Works
to hold a rally in City Hall park because they had the nerve
to criticize you. Meanwhile, you allowed rallies in the park
for groups you favored, like the New York Yankees. A federal
judge had to order you to grant the permit to Housing Works.
You threatened to cut off city funding to the Brooklyn Museum
because it dared to exhibit a work of art you found offensive.
Federal judge Guido Calabresi was moved to bemoan the "relentless
onslaught" of first amendment lawsuits you invited to be hurled
at the city. The three dozen such lawsuits, almost all of
which you lost, cost our city millions of dollars in fines
and legal fees.
You picked fights with a succession of our city's school
chancellors. Our current one, Harold Levy, had to wait two
months after his appointment by the school board before you
would finally return his phone calls. Your obstinacy was apparently
due to the fact that Levy, well, wasn't the person you had
wanted to be appointed.
In light of all that, we thought you might understand why
one citizen, Bill Weinberg, felt justified in posting a sticker
that read "GIULIANI IS A JERK" on a lamppost. But you didn't
understand. He was arrested and spent a night in jail. And
in light of all that, we thought you might understand why
Brooklyn artist Robert Lederman would paint pictures depicting
you as Hitler. But you didn't understand. You had him arrested
40 times over the years on various bogus charges. He was never
found guilty of anything.
No, Rudy. You are the last person to maintain any "unity"
we may be enjoying right now. In closing, I'd like to say
this: thank you for your leadership during this unprecedented
Now get the hell out.