Here’s an actual assignment I give to students in my government classes:
When you go home, ask if your parent what they think of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Write their response down and be prepared to discuss it in class tomorrow.
Here’s what I tell the class that I anticipate:
Black parents will say they hate Giuliani. White and Asian parents will say they love him. Latino parents will go either way.
The above is actually the story of my childhood political consciousness in the 1990s.
As far as how my parents (Italian and Puerto Rican) saw politicians, there was Slick Willy getting away with who knows what in the White House, the New York State government doing nothing and our hero, Rudy Giuliani.
From my parents’ perspective, the only politician you could trust seemed to be Rudy. There was the crime reduction, the crime reduction, the crime reduction… oh, and 9/11. So growing up, I was inculcated with the undying love of the homely fellow from Brooklyn.
But that was then.
The spiral downhill for my Giuliani infatuation happened when he parlayed being mayor of New York City during the 9/11 terrorists attacks. I mean the way he was talking about the day, you would be forgiven for thinking he was Chuck Norris.
And then the police shootings happen.
Now, you would think a guy who was mayor of New York during the Abner Louima, Patrick Dorismond and Amadou Diallo incidents would have learned a few things about racial sensitivities, but instead his reaction is to smugly antagonize black people. His comments about crime in the Black community during his “please look at me” media tour only served to cement in the minds of African-Americans that that he is racist, and to alienate white liberals, especially white liberal New Yorkers who held their noses and voted for him twice in the 1990s.
The latest statements from Giuliani have him questioning President Obama’s patriotism. With this, Giuliani has cemented his reputation as a has-been.
If he would have quit politics after being elected mayor, history might have remembered him as a hero. Now, he will be known as that closet-racist guy who was once ran New York City.
You can follow Eric Cortes on Twitter @politeeric.