You can find a depressing tale about the state of race relations in the United States any day just by Googling the right terms. But even on a bleak landscape, the story of #Pointergate stands out.
If you are just catching up with this story, which involves an attempt to smear Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges by her city’s police department, Alex Abad-Santos of Vox does a good joblaying it out.
In brief, a local television station reported that the mayor was “flashing gang signs” with a convicted felon when she was, in fact, pointing at a man who does have a felony conviction but is now a volunteer for the nonprofit Neighborhoods Organizing for Change.
Making that intellectual jump from harmless pointing to gang sign relies a lot on stereotypes of black people and violence. But there are other elements of this story that are troubling, too.
The main target of #Pointergate seems to be Mayor Hodges, not Gordon. But the “gang sign” smear is directly connected to her association with Gordon. The story, and the cops quoted, reduce his entire life to his transgression, leaving out vital parts of his rehabilitation and his history.
“The constant portrayal of young black men as gangsters, thugs, and criminals can be seen nearly every night on the news or in newspapers in Minnesota and around the country,” [Nekima] Levy-Pounds wrote in her column. “The daily replaying of the narrative of blackness as evil, dangerous, and in the case of Mayor Hodges, contagious, has a cumulative effect on the American psyche and permanently warps our perceptions of the ‘other.'”
And it makes you wonder how police officers — retired and current — in the city view criminals, specifically non-white criminals.
Mike Spangenburg also has some smart things to say about the racial attitudes of the reporter who put this story together and the people he interviewed.