Obama Used the Word Stupid and the Stupid Begins

This is a moment in history when serious discourse is necessary but here comes the seriously insufficient and deficient news reportage, exemplified, on short notice, by this story published by the New York Daily News, the only big urban daily ever found guilty in a federal discrimination lawsuit of of abusing the job rights of people of color on its editorial staff.

[It also has to be said, based on old Press Clips from the Village Voice and other news sources whose specific names and dates don’t come to mind right now, that Italian Americans also had rough times at the News because of their ethnicity].*

No one will be able to keep up with the tonnage of the really fallow reporting and news diagnosing pouring forth in the wake of the Cambridge incident. But I want to address some over the course of … well, it’s still to be determined regarding the period of time.  Nevertheless, let’s go with the NY Daily News, July 23, 2009. Byline: Beverly Ford In Cambridge and Rich Schapiro.

DN Headline: Sgt. James Crowley, cop who arrested Henry Louis Gates, denies he’s a racist

DN Caption of picture of James Crowley: Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley says that he’s not racist for arresting Henry Louis Gates, citing the CPR he gave the Celtics star Reggie Lewis (below) as proof.

Lead: The cop who arrested African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates refused to apologize and denied he’s a racist, saying he once gave black basketball star Reggie Lewis mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Second graph: “I wasn’t working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn’t working on a black man,” Sgt. James Crowley told the Boston Herald. “I was working on another human being.”

NYDN editors published this story:

  • To give the arresting officer an opportunity to voice?
  • Allow readers to evaluate whether he was racist?
  • To evaluate, reveal the motives of the officer?

I’m not questioning the News’ decision to interview Crowley, what’s being challenged is the content and context of the interview. I’m willing to believe him about what he did for Reggie, as well as accept the the comment. But in the course of the interview, I wished he had been asked his opinion about this remark by President Obama: “There is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that’s just a fact ” Obama said. A remark similar to comments by historians, sociologists, journalists, writers and men and women in the street. Some of that history should have been included in the story about the Cambridge cop.

How about a question about how People of Color in Cambridge perceived their department. Does he believe racism in America, or Cambridge, for that matter, is a significant matter?

Last but not least. Race and racism in America is complex, so much so, that I rarely if ever use the R-word, as in when one of my Colleagues is ragging on another Colleague about him/her being racist. “He’s the kind of racist you never turn your back on,” a Colleague once said to me about another Colleague. I prefer these kind of descriptions and expressions: He/she has unresolved race issues. Or, he or she as severely unresolved race issues. Or, he/she is so hung up on race that … [fill in the blanks].

One of the most cherished Big Apple institutions, The New York City Fire Department, AKA, New York’s Bravest, the largest in the world, is so riddle with racism and bigotry that there are anecdotes more mind-boggling than the statistics showing 95 percent all white force with less than 5 percent women. When I started working on a women fire fighters project years ago, I came across numerous anecdotes about the threatening and menacing of women fire fighters, such as a real fear that they could be left in burning buildings if their “brothers” were displeased with some action.

The bigotry in that department cannot be denied … but it is. Yet, there are innumerable accounts of NYFD White charging into burning buildings to rescue people of all colors and stripes and persuasions. Absolutely.

Victims to be saved, yes. To become members of the department, ain’t no way. To be treated fairly as members of the NYFD? Just check the lawsuits.

This topic needs to be revisited and will as the Cambridge incident continues to resonate. I’m looking for the info from the New York Civil Liberties Union about the hundreds of thousands of blacks, Hispanics and People of Color stop and frisked regularly as well as irregularly in New York City.

Here is the latest from the NYT. Headline: Professor’s Arrest Tests Beliefs on Racial Progress.

When I was a reporter working for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, New York, eons ago, I and other black editors/writers had a serious confrontation about racial discrimination in the news room. It was bloody. Management met with us because Gannet at that time was in the course of merging with another corporation, which owned broadcast news media.

Because Affirmative Action had a few teeth in those days, middle management, that is, publishers and top editors of the Chronicle, a morning newspaper, and Gannet’s afternoon newspaper – the two publications were in the same building on the same floor – had to meet with us because Gannet was concerned that the black reporters were ready to file a lawsuit. [I had been talking to the local chapter then of the New York Civil Liberties Union to prepare for a suit]

Anyway, at that time, there were no Hispanics in the newsroom. Women were not allowed to be police reporters (which meant they generally could move on to the best beats) and Italian Americans could not be in news editorial though they could be in sports.

I kid you not.

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