While watching video from Saturday’s Inner Circle Charity Event in New York City, I wasn’t just made uncomfortable by Bill de Blasio’s rapping but also by the NYC mayor’s lack of regard for Black culture.
In an unfortunately scripted joke, de Blasio blamed his late endorsement of Hillary Clinton on the fact that he “was running on C.P. time.” After getting immediate — and scripted — backlash from Leslie Odom Jr., Clinton jumped in to clarify that by saying C.P., de Blasio did not mean “colored people’s time” but instead “cautious politicians’ time,” which Odom Jr. contently accepted.
The only problem is that while Odom Jr. accepted this clarification quietly, the majority of other people did not. The Internet and various news sources jumped on this racially-charged joke as extremely distasteful.
Right after making the joke, Leslie Odom Jr. said, “I don’t like jokes like that, Bill” — showing there is obvious offense — but when Clinton clarifies that it’s “cautious politicians’ time” instead of “colored people’s time,” he immediately rescinds his complaint.
NPR states that “De Blasio told CNN it was really just a joke at the expense of ‘cautious politicians.’” But just because Clinton attempted to veil it with loose self-depreciation, nodding to the fact that she’s constantly arriving late for appearances and events, “cautious politicians time” negates the underlying cut at “colored people”? I don’t think so.
The next concerning thing about this remark is that these white politicians aren’t just refraining from any acknowledgment of wrongdoing but also failing to realize it’s wrong in the first place. Vox.com notes that de Blasio thinks, “people are missing the point here,” when really, the only person missing the point is himself. De Blasio — and Clinton for that matter — is clearly clueless to the severity of the joke he made. This reveals a gross ignorance about the cultural differences between himself and Leslie Odom Jr., or any other member of the black community.
The true core of the problem is that it is just another act of cultural appropriation. Clinton and de Blasio are not part of the Black culture and therefore they are not allowed to make jokes that belong to that realm. Multiple news outlets have added in the fact that de Blasio’s wife is black, as if that’s a justification for this joke.
But your wife being black does not make you black yourself. It doesn’t even fully admit him into that culture because he has not — in any way — felt the true realities of what it means to be a black American in this day and age. He does not get to make jokes that undermine or stereotype a culture that he is not a part of because he has no understanding of what it means to be a member of that community.
Not only is it offensive to the Black community, but it’s also a poor demonstration of leadership. “In a country that has a real history of systemic racism … people don’t want their political leaders playing into racist stereotypes that defame minorities” because it shows a true blindness towards the minority groups of our nation.
Many people are arguing that de Blasio and Clinton aren’t to blame because it was a pre-written script, so it’s actually the fault of the writer. But Clinton and de Blasio are the authority figures here that were apparently okay the skit. It was a poorly drafted, poorly executed and poorly accepted joke that exemplifies the problems we have in our country with appropriate acknowledgement of other cultures that are not our own.
The fact that one of the most highly-profiled Americans of 2016, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, saw this joke, agreed to go along with it and then failed to see how it could be offensive to many people shows that there is a real ignorance and white-bias within our political system.