Way back in the day, Thomas Jefferson, one of our so-called founding fathers, declared that “Negroes were incapable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid,” he said referring to the great Greek mathematician.
He was soon thoroughly refuted by Benjamin Banneker, a Black man famous for constructing a clock of wooden parts that kept accurate time for more than twenty years. Under separate cover he dispatched to Jefferson his mathematical computations fully demonstrating his prowess in geometry and trigonometry.
There’s no Banneker around to correct Mayor Bloomberg’s deficiencies in math and logic but we do have the American Civil Liberties Union, and they have been as unsparing in their critique as Banneker was in his refutation of Jefferson.
“I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little,” the mayor astonishingly announced last week in response to bills put forth by the City Council and in his conclusions about the NYPD’s record on stop and frisk.
The mayor said that although 87 percent of those stopped by the police were African Americans or Hispanics, more than 90 percent of murder suspects were identified as Black or Latino, while only 7 percent of murder suspects were identified as white.
“Therefore,” the ACLU said in a recent letter addressed to the City Council members, “the Mayor explained, the police were stopping too few minorities and too many whites. He not only said this with a straight face, he said it with condescending arrogance, characterizing those who had been critical of the racial disparity as deficient in their understanding of math and logic.”
This hubris was very similar to the attitude expressed by Jefferson, though the “great intellectual” later retracted his conclusions, indicating that Banneker was an exception to the rule.
To date, Bloomberg has offered no apology or retraction of his deductions, nor is any expected from his Honor.
If Mayor Bloomberg the “mathematician” needs further proof of his poor arithmetic it’s readily available in Wednesday’s New York Daily News and its interactive, thoroughgoing assessment. In short, the paper said, “The mayoral math on stop-and-frisk doesn’t add up.”
The News’ review of the NYPD data found police listed a “violent” offense as the suspected crime on little more than one-quarter of the 532,911 stops made last year—mostly “robbery.” “The rest listed ‘nonviolent’ offenses like weapons possession, larceny, pot possession and criminal trespass,” the paper reported.
“When the lesser offenses are included,” the News continued, “white comprise 13.8 percent of all crime suspects in the city—meaning they were stopped too infrequently.”
But as we know so well, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, and no matter how you cut it Bloomberg is wrong.
And this isn’t the first time the mayor’s math has been faulty, and probably not the last time, though his time to be wrong is fortunately running out.
Rather than go on and on about Bloomberg’s blunders, we should all lend our support to the ACLU’s charge and support Bills 1079 and 1080, and not be intimidated “by the Mayor’s bluster and bullying tactics. Mathematics is on your side, not his; logic is on your side, not his; law is on your side, not his.”