Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bill de Blasio & Family, A New York Story

 By Claudio Iván Remeseira Follow @HispanicNewYork| Posted on Wed., November 6, 2013, at 5:00 p.m. ET.
New York City's New First Family  (De Blasio Campaign photo released in Twitter)

As predicted by all polls, Bill de Blasio won a landslide victory on Tuesday and became the first Democrat in 20 years to be elected mayor of New York City. His triumph, in which the image of black wife and birracial kids played a powerful role, has also been widely regarded as a celebration of the city's racial diversity.

Yet part of the value of this "teachable moment" lies in the realization that it didn't come about easily, as WSJ's Michael Howard Saul reports:
Mr. de Blasio and (his wife) Ms. Chirlane McCray met in 1991 at City Hall while they were both working for David Dinkins, the city's first and only black mayor. It was a sensitive time for an interracial couple—just after tensions between blacks and Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood exploded into riots. It was also the year of the release of "Jungle Fever," the Spike Lee movie about a black man dating a white woman.
They attracted attention. "Classic situation, we go into a store, we go into a restaurant, whatever, and the assumption of the people working there was that we weren't together," Mr. de Blasio said. "That would be a constant."
Early in their relationship, they were taunted on the subway. Teenagers yelled "Jungle Fever" at them. It was unsettling, they said, harder to shrug off than it would be today.
Once, when checking into a motel, a clerk couldn't grasp that they were together. "It literally, like, couldn't compute for this guy," Mr. de Blasio said.
Ms. McCray said she didn't feel comfortable with Mr. de Blasio picking her up in Flatbush, the largely African-American neighborhood in Brooklyn where she lived. "There was a lot of staring—unsubtle staring," Mr. de Blasio said.
He said he doesn't believe most people meant harm. Even his mother, Maria, a liberal Democrat, was opposed.
"At the wedding, she said to one of my friends, 'You know, I'm not very happy about this wedding,'" Ms. McCray said.
Mr. de Blasio said his mother's "better angels prevailed" when their elder child, Chiara was born. By the time his mother died in 2007, he said, she considered Ms. McCray to be the daughter she never had.
Ms. McCray said her family was more receptive to Mr. de Blasio at first and had a history with interracial marriages: Ms. McCray's maternal grandmother—"the only grandmother I ever knew"—was white.
The couple settled in Park Slope, a Brooklyn neighborhood where they felt accepted. But even then, there were challenges. Ms. McCray recalled coming out of a bank with Chiara in a stroller "and this woman said, 'Is she adopted?'"
"There were times when I know that people didn't know if I was the nanny or the mom," Ms. McCray said.
De Blasio's family represent much more that the present demographic transformation of America; it is also a reminder of the personal effort and bravery that took us as a society to get to this point, and of how much is still pending.

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