Saturday, May 30, 2009
6788: Aiming For The Truth.
From The New York Daily News…
You never read this headline: ‘Black cop shoots white cop’
By Errol Louis
Many will assume that the killing of Officer Omar Edwards was the result of a tragic but honest mistake, an accident with no malice or racial bias at work.
That would be a reasonable conclusion—and a dead wrong one.
There is nothing reasonable about the fact we never see black or Latino cops accidentally gunning down white undercover officers, but the reverse has been true in several high-profile cases.
It’s true that Edwards may have violated Patrol Guide procedures by wheeling around with a weapon in his hand instead of instantly freezing and dropping his gun when ordered to do so.
The officers who killed Edwards may have violated policy, too. We don’t know what kind of warning was shouted, and the fatal bullet reportedly entered Edwards’ back, raising questions about why and when he was seen as a deadly threat.
For now, we must leave it to departmental investigators and the courts to sort out what happened.
But even before the evidence is in, what every New Yorker can do is acknowledge—and battle—the malicious myth that most black men are up to no good and likely to commit criminal violence.
It’s a mindset that leads the public to believe nuts and fraudsters—most recently, Bonnie Sweeten of Florida, who set off a national search by falsely telling FBI agents she and her daughter had been kidnapped by two black men in a Cadillac.
The story wasn’t true—and Sweeten faces criminal charges for lying—but America fell for it hook, line and sinker, launching national Amber alerts. In a similar case, a campaign worker named Ashley Todd last year falsely claimed a 6-foot-4 black man carved a “B” (for Barack Obama) into her cheek. That, too, was a lie.
And so was the 1994 tale spun by Susan Smith of South Carolina, who said a black bogeyman carjacked her two sons - who, it turned out, had died when Smith killed her children by rolling her car into a lake.
This isn’t South Carolina or Pittsburgh or Florida: We New Yorkers like to pride ourselves on being tolerant and sophisticated. But we, too, are susceptible to the bias trap.
One news headline described Edwards as “mistaken for a thug”—a reminder of the slurs cops throw around on the job and off. People get classified as thugs, perps, skells, punks and worse.
An onslaught of gangsta rap and other cultural garbage bolsters the bias. We pay a heavy price by letting racist imagery, words and accusations slosh around society unchecked and unchallenged.
In the tense, split-second needed to separate a cop from a crook on a dark street, those myths may have cost a good man his life.