I hold no punches when it comes to delivering a referendum on Michael Bloomberg’s failure to connect with the African American community. Though he was not the designer of New York City’s controversial and discriminatory “Stop and Frisk,” he enforced it during his time as Mayor. This law enforcement practice disproportionately affected black men, many of whom were innocent of wrongdoing. They were randomly stopped and frisked by police, claiming they “looked suspicious.” This policy has been in constant debate as a potential violation of their civil liberties.
Needless to say, I was no fan of Bloomberg during this time and even less so earlier this year when he seemingly attempted to buy his way into the presidential election after circumventing a majority of the primary debates. His presidential bid failed miserably, and a significant component of that failure was the intense scrutiny he faced from African Americans who continued to remind him of his past.
After officially ending his run for the White House, Bloomberg declared he would deploy his unlimited resources to help whoever was the Democratic candidate. Those resources include Bloomberg’s net worth of over 50 Billion dollars. He also offered what felt like a non-apology to black people but vowed to do better.
Around the same time that Bloomberg exited the race, I learned that in the state of Florida, thousands of ex-convicts who had completed their sentences would not be allowed to vote in 2020 unless they paid their remaining court fines and fees. In some cases, the amounts ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Where would a person who has been incarcerated for years, with no income, obtain such money?
It was a clear and targeted act of voter suppression, especially since most of the former convicts were disproportionately black and Hispanic.
I had a thought, and I took to Twitter to share it. I directly tagged Michael Bloomberg in a tweet and expressed that if he REALLY wanted to make amends for his past relationship with minorities and make a difference in the election, then pay off the fines of all the former inmates who have served their time but are being blocked from voting in the state of Florida. I began to retweet this often and became part of a small group of voices on social media urging Bloomberg to use his millions to help restore these citizens’ voting ability.
Nobody from the Bloomberg social media team ever responded. It quickly felt as though it was a waste of time to keep tweeting this suggestion out to the Twitterverse. Still, I remained hopeful that at the very least, someone wealthy out there, with a philanthropic heart, may catch on and get involved. At the end of the day, a good idea is a good idea.
So, fast forward to earlier this week when a Washington Post news alert popped up on my Twitter timeline announcing that Michael Bloomberg and his team had raised $16,000,000 to pay outstanding court fines and fees of Florida’s ex-convicts, enabling them to vote in the upcoming election.
“Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg and his team have raised more than $16 million to pay the court fines and fees of nearly 32,000 Black and Hispanic Florida voters with felony convictions, an effort aimed at boosting turnout for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The money will fund a program organized by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to pay the fines, fees, and restitution costs for former prisoners who are already registered to vote in Florida but barred by law from participating in the election because of those outstanding debts.”
When confronted with the biggest calamity any president has faced in the modern era, Trump spent the year downplaying the threat, ignoring science, and recommending quack cures — which let COVID-19 spread, leaving tens of thousands needlessly sick or dead. #DemConvention pic.twitter.com/i1km0R1h2u
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) August 21, 2020
I’m not gonna lie. I cried when I read this news. I am tearing up again as I write this. You see, I thought of all those former inmates, having served their time, but then experiencing the devastation of being made to feel still incomplete. They paid their debt to society only to have yet another barrier put before them with the blatant intent to deny them their right to vote – and arguably in the most important election of their lifetime. The sadness of that was overwhelming and Bloomberg really came through to make a tangible difference.
He is to be thanked and commended. This act definitely counts as an effort to repair past relations with disenfranchised minorities, though some are questioning his motive. It’s no secret, there’s no love lost between Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump, but even if Bloomberg’s motivation for this move was just to deal Trump a massive blow, who cares.
We’ll take it … all the way to the ballot box.