I admit that my exposure to former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is fairly limited to the rather frequent visits I took to Harlem during his time in office. This period is particularly significant to me as it allowed me to witness significant portions of Harlem USA, the Mecca of Black America for much of the 20th Century, being lost to encroaching whites. One thing is for certain, Michael R. Bloomberg has frequently behaved antagonistically toward African-Americans.
So I was not particularly shocked when Bloomberg continued his pattern of animosity toward our community during his recent commencement address at that God-forsaken place known as University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). The former Mayor once again displayed his staunch opposition to all policies that could potentially benefit African-Americans, particularly Black males. Bloomberg used his time under the beaming spotlight that a commencement address provides to attack the proliferation of ‘safe spaces’ on today’s collegiate campuses. What follows is a portion of Bloomberg’s message.
The most useful knowledge that you leave here with today has nothing to do with your major. It’s about how to study, cooperate, listen carefully, think critically and resolve conflicts through reason. Those are the most important skills in the working world, and it’s why colleges have always exposed students to challenging and uncomfortable ideas.
The fact that some university boards and administrations now bow to pressure and shield students from these ideas through “safe spaces,” “code words” and “trigger warnings” is, in my view, a terrible mistake.
The whole purpose of college is to learn how to deal with difficult situations — not run away from them…one of the most dangerous places on a college campus is a safe space, because it creates the false impression that we can insulate ourselves from those who hold different views.
We can’t do this, and we shouldn’t try — not in politics or in the workplace. In the global economy, and in a democratic society, an open mind is the most valuable asset you can possess.
I am not surprised by Bloomberg’s view of ‘safe spaces’ on American collegiate campuses; please make no mistake about it, Bloomberg’s daunting address was aimed at those spaces created to aid African-American males during their pursuit of academic success.
To be honest, I expected for Michael Bloomberg to be absolutely clueless regarding the utility of ‘safe spaces’. When one considers that the vast majority of whites, particularly upper-middle class and wealthy whites, live in a reality that makes the entire world a ‘safe space’ for them and their offspring they most certainly have little consideration and even less understanding of the much needed reprieve that others need to even breathe.
Bloomberg’s contention that collegiate campuses provide an opportunity to “learn how to deal with difficult situations — not run away from them…the most dangerous place on a college campus is a safe space, because it creates the false impression that we can insulate ourselves from those who hold different views” reveals much about a class of whites who so routinely operate from a “white equals right” privileged position that they no longer realize their good fortune.
Considering that so many fail to understand the highly offensive racial sub-discourse that individuals such as Michael R. Bloomberg spew during their failed attempts at addressing racial matters, I cannot resist the urge to offer a translation of what the commencement speaker uttered in Ann Arbor. What Bloomberg actually said was:
The whole purpose of college is for ‘minorities’ to learn how to deal with the difficult situations that they will eventually be placed within – and that lesson can never be to run away from them…one of the most dangerous places on a college campus is a ‘safe space’, because it creates the false impression for African-Americans that they can insulate themselves from more powerful whites who hold different views, view that will not only negatively effect their and their loved one’s lives. They need to learn early on that they will never be able to force whites to abandon their position as it would call for them to work against their own self-interests; a position that will never be taken, particularly for the sake of racial equality.
One may have been able to excuse Bloomberg’s statement were it aimed at aiding those collegians’ who have been so ill-treated that they have been forced to seek the refuge of a ‘safe space’. Make no mistake about it, predominantly White campus are typically not a welcoming environment for African-American teenagers. This matter is made exponentially worse when one considers that the aforementioned African-American teens have been protected by doting parents who have instilled not only sensible values such as respecting authority figures and you are going to have to “work twice as hard to get half as far”, but also placed precious monetary resources as well as bountiful hopes and dreams into their high school graduate.
What a figure such as Michael Bloomberg fails to consider is the catalyst behind ‘safe spaces’. Bloomberg, and those like him, never have to worry about the hellish existence that haunts so many African-American collegians. They have no idea of what occurs during a typical day on a white campus. I am absolutely certain that Bloomberg could never imagine that a significant portion of the harassment that African-American males experience comes at the hand of white professors and teaching assistants during pivotal moments that could be used to encourage Black undergraduates, however, they are invariably used to drive home personal perspectives that their writing is subpar and they do not belong on a collegiate campus. It is in these spaces that the gaps in Michael Bloomberg’s thinking glow like a fluorescent light on a starless night.
In many ways, Bloomberg’s statement is calling for African-American collegians to simply, “Eat Shit and Grin!” To their credit African-American collegiate activists have publicly fought against such advice with such vigor that even collegiate administrators have been forced to not only acknowledge the issue, but also take tangible steps to address the matter. If Bloomberg, and those of his ilk, had their way, African-American collegians would not only be spread out across the campus, but also advised to redirect their activist energies into more productive areas such as diligently working to integrate, if not assimilate, themselves into ‘mainstream’ America.
Fortunately, African-American collegians are pressing the matter and refuse to believe that they are devoid of power or doomed to live in a world where individuals such as Michael Bloomberg, and those of his ilk get to make all of the rules.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.