#PointerGate: How Jesus, Biden, Oprah and This Cat Are Gang Members, or The Most Dumbly Racist Story Ever
A particularly demented story out of Minneapolis that would be entertaining if not so deeply racist: Mayor Betsy Hodges, an evidently okay human who has said she wants to improve famously bad relations between her city's police department and communities of color by "cleaning house" and giving police body cameras, was working to get out the vote last week when she was photographed with a young black man who was once in prison, and is now, though unable to vote because he is still on probation, helping others to vote. They were goofing around and pointing at each other. Which was evidently enough for some disgruntled law enforcement official to tip off some clueless "reporter," who then wrote a story about how their honorable mayor was (gasp) out there making gang signals with a convicted felon, who was obviously a gang member on account of how he's, ummm, black.
The background to the absurd KSTP story by one Jay Kolls is the Minneapolis Police Department's troubling record of widespread racial profiling, excessive force and other grossly inequitable treatment of people of color. An ACLU report and subsequent Star Tribune article has found that blacks are 11.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession (though the same percentages of white and black people are said to smoke weed) and almost nine times more likely to be arrested for disorderly conduct, a catch-all used to criminalize a broad range of behaviors, and other minor offenses. Both Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janeé Harteau have expressed a commitment to change that, which in turn has angered police who have publicly argued that while relations with the black community may be "less than perfect," it's all the black people's fault for not adequately respecting them.
It is against that backdrop that the mayor was photographed goofing around with Navell Gordon, a 22-year-old man who made mistakes at an early age, paid his dues, and is now trying to help others who have been disenfranchised by working with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. The accompanying nonsensical gang charges, many astute observers argued, are the result of a climate wherein cops “see the community as the enemy.” Others argued that "this is how Ferguson happens" - that is, when "cops walk around with a gun, the state-sanctioned blessing to use it within their discretion, and the mindset that all you need to know about a black male is that he’s a 'convicted felon' and, therefore, a 'bad guy.'”
Happily, the story that what was rapidly dubbed #Pointergate has backfired, with many in the community outraged. There is a movement to hold KSTP accountable by pressuring their advertisers, an effort to fire the reporter, a petition by Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, critical press by organized labor and others, and, because here as elsewhere you gotta either laugh or cry, the inevitable #Pointergate hashtag revealing all the other gang members in our midst.