The Diary of a Black Man and the “Me Too” Movement

Dear Diary,

While subconsciously reconciling my compartmentalized thwarted and grief stricken emotions regarding the legend Bill Cosby and the convicted rapist Bill Cosby, I noticed something occurring inside of me. I had completely become disoriented in my media-inspired, vicarious attempt to keep track of the detailed salacious, gritty and heart-wrenching stories of sexual assault and harassment women (and some men) have endured while working behind and in front of Tinseltown cameras. I was essentially burned out.

The need to be constantly aware of the latest sexual assault or harassment claim brought on media inspired emotional drowning as my brain swallowed too much (literally) man-made sadness. For too many of us, it is inescapable. We are forced to see the damage and consequential pain brought on by numerous local (almost always male) government officials, state representatives, senators and even president of “this here” United States. There have been so many gloomy stories of abuse and violence finally being brought to the light.

As of late, the confirmation of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has brought a new level of debauchery. His actions alongside the Republican party’s slimy maneuver of trying to not offend registered-Republican white women voters while at the same time standing behind “their man,” have taken the oxygen out of the room of sanity and caused much confusion and euphoria. Silicon Valley, higher education, and even the evangelical church are not immune to these acts of sexist injustice as well.

Sexual violence and harassment allegations have captured the US psyche. They draw one to believe the occurrence of sexual assault and harassment within Hollywood, branches of government, higher education, Silicon Valley, and God knows where else are simple examples of a society founded in white male privilege. It includes patriarchal privilege historically wielded widely by white males, but practiced to some degree by men in every racial-ethnic group. This gendered privilege has placed women at the whim of male physical, economic, academic, legislative and psychological dominance.

Today, the energy and power derived from the anger and frustration over sexual assault and harassment has generated a long overdue spotlight on a sexist system that creates and supports the injustice women have long endured, on the people who support and protect it, on and the darkness that was created to force the silence of the victims. Entrenched threats to the bodies, careers, minds and souls of anybody who publicly acknowledges the acts as highly unjust are easing as survivors seek public and monetary retribution.

Now I know way before the dam was broken with the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., President Donald Trump, comedian Andy Dick, former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore, actor Ben Affleck, Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., casino magnate Stephen Wynn, director Brett Ratner, news anchor Matt Lauer, Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., filmmaker Paul Haggis, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and countless others (too many to mention without becoming physically ill), there was President Bill Clinton. Two decades earlier, there was Rep. John Young, D-Texas. And the repressive misogynistic beat goes on and on.

Women from the beginning of time have been subjugated by predominantly privileged white men who have operated as if their possession of a penis allotted them a right –– an unbridled freedom to ogle, sexually harass, grab, assault and rape without counteraction. Men from the birth of our nation have attempted to control every aspect of a woman’s life and body functions. Yet women have risen to be prospering survivors in a male-subjugated landscape. I have witnessed this along the intersectionality of gender and race. As a Black child, I became familiar with the illustrations of Black females in America anointed by non-Blacks with a degree of invisibility and debasement many women who are not of color could not fathom.

Therefore, my pride was understandable as I surfed through the cable news channels on January 20 and watched millions of women around the world energetically march to protest sexual harassment and assault. I began to even chant “Me Too! Me Too!” as my 1- and 4-year-old boys played in the living room.

But after each speech a mounting sense of recollection laced with fear began to creep into my mind. Within the emotional testimonies and speeches performed by the elite in music, television, politics and movies, I heard a theme that spoke of “believing all women.” In the weeks that followed, I observed male commentators and reporters on the more liberal channels pledge their alliance to the Me Too movement without hesitation in the context of high-profile accusations associated with Trump, Moore and comedian Louis C.K. The same feeling emerged when television networks showed video of congressmen and senators such as even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying, “I believe the women.”

As a self-proclaimed “woke” Black man, the phrase reverberates abruptly off the pages of Black U.S. history, which creates angst in my soul. So much so that when new allegations surface, I cringe, cross my fingers and toes and pray the accused is not a Black man. Ridiculous? Maybe to those of a lighter hue. But I cannot help but fear the social and psychological repercussions of stories related to Bill Cosby and Russell Simmons to the American psyche. I am NOT saying they are innocent. I am saying I have certain fears.

Evidence of my fear is illustrated on the crying face of the 9-year-old Black boy in a Brooklyn store last week who was accused of sexual assault by a white female patron, now being called online as “Cornerstone Caroline.” She called for police assistance and accused the child of grabbing her backside. The store security’s videotape (thank God there was a tape) proved that her allegations were completely false. When I consider her actions, which I feel are based on black male racial stereotyping, and her sick undertaking to sexualize a 9-year-old little boy, I am reminded of what hangs from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

The newly constructed museum was brought to life by the nonprofit Equal Justice Institute. The museum opened April 26, 2018 in Montgomery, Ala. to becoming the country’s first memorial to the legacy of enslaved Black people who were victims of white terroristic behavior — lynching. The names of Blacks symbolically hang from the rafters as evidence of a presumption of guilt and consequential violence. The museum gives voice to “strange fruit” hung from southern trees. The 4,000 Black men, women and children were not simply tortured, but savagely lynched, burned and castrated alive, and at times dragged on display for others to be reminded of their place within the white constructed racial hierarchy. White men, women and children who treated the cruelty as attending a circus or county fair, gleefully observed many of these ungodly incidents. If one has the stomach, evidence can be found in historical photos, postcards and newspaper clippings.

Many of the 805 etched steel markers suspended from the rafters of the museum illustrate limitless examples of “believe the [white] women.” Before the Civil War, many statutes were passed by white male politicians to provide a penalty of death or castration for Black men suspected or convicted of raping white women. Many whites believed lynching was necessary to protect the prized possession of a white man — the white female –– from the “human beast” of white-racist imagination, the Black man. Our country’s whites accepted this form of natural law as an appropriate measure to secure not only the sanctity of the white woman, but also the larger system of white racial oppression. The spark that gave fire to the Tulsa (Oklahoma) white race riots of 1921 and the 1923 white massacre of black citizens in Rosewood (Florida) were fueled by white allegations of rape. It has been noted that in 1900, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, the powerful Senator Benjamin Tillman (D-S.C.) stated:

We have never believed him [the Black man] to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him.

But for white men, the rules were and continue to be quite different. Historically, white rapists who victimized their female counterparts were likely to receive less severe punishment. For Black men, pure allegations were enough to invoke white mobs to capture the alleged rapists or forcefully break them out of prison or court. The sentiment and ideological perspectives regarding Black male sexuality that prompted these acts continued beyond the days of slavery. Movies such as “The Birth of a Nation” (1915), “Super Fly” (1972), and name your pick of a Tyler Perry movie, all personify and perpetuate fear of Black male sexuality. Regardless, the system that allowed Black men to be accused, tortured and murdered due to “believing the [white] woman,” by way of white mobs or an illegitimate justice system continues.

The infamous wrongful conviction of the Central Park Five in 1990 stands out. Black and Latino teenagers from Harlem were not only accused of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park, but also publicly “hung” by the media. The events that occurred after the rape revealed a city and nation’s horrid and sinful side –– a side filled with not only the white fear and false stereotypes of Black males, but a white disdain for those seen as “other.” A call to bring back the death penalty, overzealous police harassment and public attacks of Black men were rampant in the city. In fact, the media, and white people such as then simply millionaire Donald Trump, fed the city the raw meat that often nourishes the white psyche and reaction to Black men. Even after evidence proved the teens innocent, whites like President Trump continue to this day affirming their guilt.

Bob Allen, once a senior Republican, anti-gay legislator in Florida, was convicted in 2007 for attempting to solicit oral sex in a men’s bathroom from an undercover police officer. What was his defense? He said the undercover officer was a large and daunting Black man, therefore he felt he had no choice but to perform any act necessary to survive the encounter. In 1994, Susan Smith of Union, S.C., drowned her two children by rolling her car into a lake because a man she was dating in an extramarital affair did not want kids. She told police her children were carjacked by a Black man, only to confess nine days later. As Time magazine put it:

Susan Smith knew what a kidnapper should look like. He should be a remorseless stranger with a gun. But the essential part of the picture — the touch she must have counted on to arouse the primal sympathies of her neighbors and to cut short any doubt — was his race. The suspect had to be a black man. Better still, a black man in a knit cap, a bit of hip-hop wardrobe that can be as menacing in some minds as a buccaneer’s eye patch. Wasn’t that everyone’s most familiar image of the murderous criminal?

In 2008, Thomas McGowan, a Black man, was released after spending nearly 23 years in Texas prison for rape and burglary. With help from the Innocence Project, some DNA indicated he was wrongly convicted. In March 2017, the white Texas native Breana Harmon, 18, reported she was abducted by three Black men and raped. Two weeks later, she confessed to lying to authorities and was offered a sentence of probation and ordered to pay $10,000. In 2007, the white female Carolyn Bryant Donham recanted parts of her 1955 accusations of sexual harassment that led to the abduction and ghastly murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy visiting family in Mississippi.

Currently on many college campuses, sexual assault and harassment issues are finally being taken seriously. However, Harvard law professors Jeannie Suk and Janet Halley have criticized new university policies related to sexual assault, arguing against an ideological and legal perspective that always and undiplomatically believes all accusers. They have found the majority of sexual assault complaints at Harvard were brought against students of color, which feeds into the unjust over criminalization of male students of color.

During the horrific murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, the young white shooter Dylann Storm Roof allegedly told churchgoers:

You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.

He meant Black men. I could provide much more, but you could lose your way navigating the historical and contemporary injustice pertaining to Black men and the concept, “believe all the women.”

I know those women survivors and the empathetic allied parties to the Me Too movement will probably receive my feelings badly. And I get it. These survivors have been forced into darkness and silence for far too long and the newly created space to tell one’s hard truths is roaring like a necessary tidal wave. However, after the proverbial dust settles, and the fiery speeches of condemnation begin to wither, maybe our country will begin to make space for honest conversations from all sides of the issue where we can begin to apply specific contextual and situational parameters to realities of sexual abuse and harassment. I hope that we will be able to apply a clear racialized lens to allow those of color to be fully seen and heard. Just maybe we can all one day be on a new page of #MeToo.

Signed, Dr. Terence Fitzgerald

Racial Profiling and Mass Deportation of Black and Latino Men

A recent report by the New York Civil Liberties Union revealed that the New York Police Department stopped and frisked nearly 700,000 people last year. Black and Latino youth were the primary targets of these policing efforts. Black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 21 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011, yet they make up less than five percent of the city’s population. Ninety percent of Black and Latino young men who were stopped were innocent. The disproportionate targeting of black and Latino young men in New York City can help us to understand another phenomenon: why 98 percent of deportees are sent to Latin America and the Caribbean and why over three quarters are male. In my research with Dominican and Jamaican deportees, I found that the vast majority of them were first picked up by police officers and then handed over to immigration authorities.


(Image from here)

 

If you walk into an immigration detention center today – where an average of about 34,000 non-citizens are held as they wait on immigration hearings and for their deportation to happen – you will find that nearly all detainees are black and brown men. This is remarkable, because not all immigrants are men, and not all immigrants are from Latin America and the Caribbean. About 25% of undocumented immigrants are from Europe and Asia. And about half of all immigrants are women. So, how is this happening? Why are most detainees and deportees Latin American and Caribbean men? The answer to this question lies in racial profiling. As immigration law enforcement increasingly is being carried out by criminal law enforcement agents, the effects of racial profiling in criminal law enforcement have spillover effects into immigration law enforcement.

 

(Image from here)

Deportations are carried out by immigration law enforcement officers who work in two branches of the Department of Homeland Security: Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  In Fiscal Year 2010, immigration law enforcement agents apprehended over half a million non-citizens. The vast majority – 463,382 – were apprehended by the Border Patrol. The remaining 53,610 were encountered by ICE, usually within the interior of the United States, in cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco.

Border Patrol arrests happen much as they have since the creation of the Border Patrol in 1924, except that there have been enormous technological advances. Border Patrol agents have checkpoints and helicopters and motion sensors and all sorts of ways to find people along the US/Mexico border. They also have racial profiling, a central technique in immigration law enforcement along the border for the past 90 years. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Mexicans account for the vast majority of arrests along the Mexican border. In addition, the presumption of illegality has also spread to nationals of Mexico’s southern neighbors in Central America. Thus, the second largest group to face deportation is Central Americans. However, there is a third group that also faces deportation in large numbers: Caribbean immigrants from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Notably, Dominicans and Jamaicans, unlike Central Americans, are not likely to be stopped along the border for “Mexican appearance.” So, how are they getting caught up in the deportation dragnet?

When I spoke with Dominican and Jamaican deportees, very few of them reported having been arrested by immigration agents along the border. Nearly all of the Jamaicans and Dominicans I interviewed had arrived in New York City via airplane. Immigration law enforcement agents generally do not have license to walk up and down the streets of U.S. cities and demand proof of U.S. citizenship from pedestrians. The Border Patrol is only authorized to work in U.S. border areas. And, ICE, only has 20,000 employees overall, only a fraction of whom are officers engaged in raiding homes and worksites arresting illegally present immigrants. ICE does not have the staff or resources to patrol the county. Instead, ICE works closely with criminal law enforcement agencies to apprehend immigrants.

 


(Image from here.)

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) is the division of ICE that carries out arrests. On an average day, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers arrest 108 immigrants, and deport 1,057 people. ERO officers arrest many of these 108 immigrants per day after they have been processed through the criminal justice system.

There are at least three ways that Police/ICE cooperation works:

  1. A police officer pulls over a person for an alleged traffic violation. If that police officer is deputized to work for ICE, they can run the driver’s fingerprints right there on the road. If the driver turns out to be illegally present in the United States or has an immigration hold, the police officer can arrest the driver and hand them over to ICE.
  2. A police officer arrests a person and charges them with a crime. They take them to the police station, fingerprint them, and then run their fingerprints through the ICE database. Even if the police decide to drop the charges, if the person turns out to have an immigration hold, they will detain them until ICE comes to pick them up.
  3. A police officer arrests a person, charges them with a crime, and the person serves time in jail or prison. Before being released from jail or prison, the police can call ICE to come and check their eligibility to remain in the United States.

All three of these scenarios begin with a police arrest. We know well from criminal justice scholarship that black and Latino men are much more likely to be arrested than other people. The cooperation of police with ICE, then, leads to an expansion of this racially stratified system of punishment into the realm of immigration law enforcement.

African Americans’ Social & Racial Identity Under Attack



The social identity of individuals is linked to their racial and cultural identities which give them a sense of purpose in life. It is common knowledge that Italians, Greeks, Russians, Germans, French, Swedes, Finns, Norwegians, Spaniards, to name a few, have identifiable cultures that are linked to their social and racial identity and that this identity is embraced, welcomed, and accepted throughout the Western world. These cultural groups are known for their goods and services, foods, modes of production, religions, and regions. However, a radically different story emerges about people of color, specifically African Americans. When reflection is given to individuals of African extraction, what thought comes to mind? Naturally, racialized societies throughout the world associate negative images to persons, groups, or things they do not understand or to those things they perceive as different (See Images of the outsider in American law and culture: Can Free Expression Remedy Systemic Social Ills, Chapter 21, pp. 225-235.) These negative images usually come from a white racial frame that is sustained and maintained by systemic racism.

African Americans have been the subject of racialized and discursive discourse that has socially constructed them as criminals and amoral human beings, which challenges their humanity and their right to a legitimate social and racial identity. Such racialized discourse has its roots in slavery, was reproduced during the Jim Crow era, and is maintained today through systemic racism to keep them from having a healthy identity, one that the world can appreciate and respect. When CNN’s Black in America aired during the month of July 2008, Fox News invited both black and white contributors to share their perceptions of the CNN documentary. These contributing sycophants used offensive and racially-charged statements to demean African Americans. To this end, African American guest speakers were expected to express bigoted and inflammatory statements against their own racial group with reference to crime and out-of-wedlock births, suggesting that African Americans lack moral character and can only be identified as criminals and an amoral people. Earl Ofari Hutchinson writes that

The image of the malevolent black male is based on durable and time-resistant bedrock of myths, half-truths, and lies. The image was created during the European conquest of Africa, nurtured during slavery, artfully refined during the nadir of segregation, and revived during the Ronald Reagan-George Bush years. . . . To maintain power and control, the plantation masters said that black men were savage and hyper-sexual. To strengthen racial control, late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century scientists and academics concocted pseudo-theories that said black men were criminal and mentally defective. To justify lynching and political domination, the politicians and business leaders of the era said that black men were rapists and brutes. To roll back civil rights and slash social programs, Reagan-Bush Limbaugh type conservatives say black men are derelict and lazy.

When racist media, such as Fox News, use black intellectual mercenaries to pander to white audiences to denounce a cultural practice or particular behavior in African Americans in general, they are, in essence, identifying African Americans as subjects worthy to be oppressed, absolving a racialized society of all blame for their oppressed condition and the reason such behavior has become a normalized practice.

With this said, many African American men and women do not have the luxury of marrying and raising a family together under normal circumstances because of many black males’ difficulty acquiring gainful employment with medical benefits. Without gainful employment, African American men are essentially unmarriageable. With so many African American men lost to the prison system and with little economic advantage, many are reluctant to marry because they cannot support a family.

Finally, Kenneth Estell, as well as many other black scholars, documents African Americans’ contributions to America. Estell documents both black achievements and chronicles their accomplishments, such as Blacks’ creation of national organizations, involvement in politics, entrepreneurship, gains in education, religion, literature, the media, performing arts, music, sports, military, science, medicine, military, and many other achievements.

Is the Decline of Black Males in Black Churches Affecting their Abilities to Develop a Counter Frame?

This Sunday, I received my tri-monthly call from my guilt ridden mother in regards to her hope that I miraculously surprise her by showing up at her Baptist church. Beyond the fact that I decided to follow my father’s side of the family and become Roman Catholic in college (even though I rarely go today, I will never tell her), she is conscious (or at least I hope she is) of the fact that I do not like her church. In the past I jokingly have demonstrated to her my frustration with the church through my montage of skits that are full of high jinks clapping, foot stomping, “Amens, and brow wiping.” But still, she continues to push and hope. After the call, I decided to spend the rest of my morning finishing The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing, by Joe Feagin. After reading the eloquently discussed topic of the abilities of people of color to combat the ever-present white racial construct through the utilization of constructing a counter frame to oppression, I began to reflect.

Greater File Chapel Baptist Church
Creative Commons License photo credit: Julia Manzerova

In particular, I reflected upon the book’s discussion of how the Black churches have been a source for enabling Blacks to construct a counter frame to the oppressive and racist barriers that are present within the U.S. My mind then became flooded with recollections of the past, and intricate codes for survival embedded within stories my wise grandmother told me as a child. She mentioned numerous times of how we, as Black people, relied upon Black churches for not only religious, but social salvation. I can remember every Sunday attempting new ways to avoid putting on my little suit and accompanying clip-on plaid bow-tie that my grandmother deemed cute. She was old-school. “If you do not go to church, you cannot be saved.” More importantly to me was the phrase, “If you do not go to church, your butt cannot play.” My grandmother grew up seeing the church as a place that provided a level of social support in a time where racism was as evident as the air that flowed through her lungs. It was a salvation for her when her brother was hung by the Klan in Mississippi. The church was a place to be replenished in faith. It was a place where an alternative message to the dominate White frame was proclaimed in a theatrical and moving fashion.

Today, there is a decline in the attendance in the Black church. Bishop Cecil Bishop, of an African Methodist Episcopal church noted that “[t]he church now is in the midst of a storm and the storm is worse than we thought it was…What you have is a growing number of people for whom the church doesn’t mean very much.” He goes on to state that younger generations, in particular Black males are declining in their numbers within the pews. In March of 2010, leadership from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church gathered together and acknowledged the decline of attendance. Specifically they discussed the decline of Black males and social concerns that affect them (i.e., unemployment, incarceration, and etc.).

Controversial scholar, Jawanza Kunjufu, has asserted that the decline of Black males is due to the fact that religion is viewed by many Black males as too passive, soft, and full of too many emotions. Leon Podles, author of The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (1999)theorizes how Christianity in general has “lost this masculine sense of a struggle against the forces within oneself, having been watered down to passionate feelings and emotional ecstasies that men find difficult to identify with.” Even though the clergy in most churches are males, Podles asserts that they have adapted their message toward females.

So the question arises; does the “Black Church” still provide the abilities to help Blacks, in particular Black males to construct a counter frame? My opinion will probably not win any nice replies within this blog, but it would seem that through the anecdotal conversations with other Black males, the Black church has lost a degree of that ability to help Black males. On average, Black leaders in these churches have lost what was so uniquely discussed in W.E.B. Du Bois essay, “The Faith of the Fathers.”He states, the leader as preacher is “the most unique personality developed by the Negro on American soil,” a man who “found his function as the healer of the sick, the interpreter of the Unknown, the comforter of the sorrowing, the supernatural avenger of wrong, and the one who rudely but picturesquely expressed the longing, disappointment, and resentment of a stolen and oppressed people” This beautiful description was evident within the great migration period to the civil rights movement era with people such Rev. Marin Luther King Jr., James Lawson, Ralph Abernathy; Wyatt T. Walker, and Andrew Young. Black churches once played a pivotal role in the crusade for social justice. Today, some scholars have described the church as dead in relation to past actions for countering the oppression and racism that are covertly illustrated within the U.S. All I really know is that as Bob Dylan sang, “For the times they are a-changin’.”

Deadly Consequences of White Racism in Death of Black Cop

I was downtown today and crossed paths with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly leaving City Hall.  I can only hope that he was there because he was being held accountable for the deadly consequences of white racism by the New York City Police Department.  In the most recent example of this, a white cop shot and killed an off-duty black cop he assumed was a criminal.

The off-dalg_edwards_familyuty and out-of-uniform man who was killed was Omar Edwards, pictured here with his wife and two small children (photo from NYDaily News).

Edwards had seen someone – an actual criminal – breaking into a car and decided to pursue him, even though he was off duty.  The suspect breaking into the car started to run away and Edward chased him with his gun drawn.   It was at this point that a white cop, later identified as Andrew Dutton, saw Edwards, yelled “Police! Stop!” and when Edwards turned with his gun still drawn, Dutton shot and killed him.

The local news here is filled with reports about this story, as it should be.   Unfortunately, the reporting on the story mostly obfuscates what happened rather than illuminates it.   The incident is being called variously: “friendly fire” and a case of “mistaken identity” by the mainstream press.   What this leaves out is the crucial fact of race.

Why did Dutton assume that Edwards was a suspect?    The plain fact of it is because Edwards was a black man and that Dutton interpreted that to mean that Edwards was, therfore, a suspect.      In New York City, racism is a persistent reality of urban life.   What that means for the city’s black and brown men is that they are much more likely to be targeted by police for “frisking,” arrest, or assault. Within this context, hard-working black men like Mr. Edwards often rely on uniforms, whether as police, bus drivers or the ‘uniform’ of a college student,  to protect them from this nearly constant onslaught from police.    Without his police uniform, Mr. Edwards looked like just another suspect in E. Harlem to Mr. Dutton.

Surely, part of this tragedy – and it certainly is a terrible tragedy – is Mr. Dutton’s inability to see beyond the white racial frame that blinded him to the possibility that Mr. Edwards might be something other than a suspect.

Don’t get me wrong.   I’m not accusing Mr. Dutton of being any more racist than any other white cop; what I am saying is that Mr. Dutton’s worldview was shaped by his experience and racial background in such a way that it predisposed him to assume that Edwards was a suspect rather than a fellow officer.    Details are coming out now about Mr. Dutton’s life, and one of these is that he lives in the predominantly white suburban Long Island.   Choosing to live in a white suburb while policing a predominantly non-white city doesn’t necessarily make one more racist, but it does little to challenge the predominant white racial frame.  Perhaps if, as community activists have long argued, Mr. Dutton were required to live in the city he might have known Mr. Edwards, or at the very least, hesistated before he made a deadly assumption he did.

This case is more than merely “mistaken identity” on the part of Mr. Dutton, but rather it is part of systemic racism that black police officers face again and again.  As one unnamed source quote in the NYDaily News says:

“This is always a black cop’s fear, that he’d be mistaken for a [suspect],” a source said.

What this source is saying is that he recognizes that if a case of “mistaken identity” happens, it’s going to happen in only one direction.  That is, it’s going to be a black cop that’s shot because he was thought to be a suspect.  This is not routinely happening to white cops.    As Kai Wright at The Root notes, this is part of a consistent with a larger pattern:

This is a pattern for NYPD’s confrontations with black men: Massive, lethal overreactions that turn difficult situations into disastrous ones. And it’s a pattern for police violence against black men nationally. They get scared; we get killed.

It’s (long past) time for this to end.  Mayor Bloomberg should hold Commissioner Kelly responsible for the actions of officers on the NYPD. And, even more than that, we need to challenge the white racial frame and the deadly consequences of white racism.