The mayor of Norwood, Ohio, Thomas F. Williams, did exactly the opposite of besieged New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in response to activist attacks on the integrity of his police department. He sent this letter to his police:
“I feel compelled to express my thoughts in writing as police officers across the country are under attack by race baiting black leaders and cowardly elected officials. Now is the time to be extra cautious while performing your duties. Back each other and take nothing for granted. Let it be known that, God forbid, something controversial would happen, I WILL NOT ABANDON YOU. As I have always said, your number one goal is to go home to your family after your shift…”
Now, instead of being under fire from his own police like his Big Apple counterpart, Williams’ declaration of support for his own police is being called “appalling” and racist. Bishop Bobby Hilton, president of the Greater Cincinnati Chapter National Action Network, released a statement saying,
“It is appalling that Mayor Thomas Williams would stoop so low as to call black leaders “Race Baiters”. It is unfortunate he has a problem with blacks and citizens of every group demanding full and fair investigations of the killings of unarmed black men.
“I strongly suggest that blacks stay out of Norwood. Do not shop there. When a Mayor feels the only way he can encourage and show support for his police department is by making disparaging remarks about black leaders, it is time to stay away for your own safety.”
Jasmine Coaston-Foree, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, demanded, “We want a public apology. We want him to retract the inflammatory statement. The letter was irresponsible for someone in his position given the events that have happened recently.”
For his part, the Mayor, a Democrat, is not backing down. “It’s one of those things where everybody knows, or most people know or can see what’s going on, but they won’t say it,” Williams said. “And there are individuals across the country who earn a living or raise funds by getting involved in something before any of the facts are known. (People) who come in, raise doubt, raise issues, when they don’t know the facts and then they leave. That’s a fact.”
What’s going on here?
1. Is the mayor’s letter wise to intentionally poke a hornet’s nest by accusing the activists of being race-baiters? No. In that regard it is irresponsible. The Mayor did not need to denigrate his critics in order to support his police, which was wise.
2. On the other hand, the letter is, if undiplomatic, completely true, and thus fair, in all respects. The stance of protesters, activists, civil rights activists and black leaders has been race-baiting of the most vile kind from the first stirrings of the Ferguson controversy, and even before, linking to the Trayvon Martin fiasco. It is race-baiting because there is a presumption of racism purely because of the color of the victims’ skin; indeed white unarmed shooting victims “don’t matter” to these protesters and activists.
Phrases like “demanding full and fair investigations of the killings of unarmed black men” is race-baiting. There was a thorough and fair investigation in Ferguson. There was no evidence whatsoever that race played any part in Brown’s death, or Garner’s, or Tamir Rice’s shooting in Cleveland. The presumption otherwise is race-baiting.
3. As for “cowardly elected officials,” that would seem to be a direct shot at de Blasio and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, as well as members of the Congressional Black Caucus, all of whom deserve criticism, although “cowardly” is not the right word. The right words are irresponsible, reckless, pandering, cynical and divisive.
4. For someone whose group is called “Black Lives Matter” to dispute the race-baiting charge hints of delusion. What does that phrase mean, unless it is intended as an assertion that to police, black lives don’t matter?
5. Anyone, black or white, who demonstrates under or near a banner reading “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” is race-baiting. In the mayor’s words, “That’s a fact.”
If there are legitimate racial issues in Norwood’s police department, the law suit cited by the mayor’s critics doesn’t show them in its fact pattern. A man was charged with cocaine distribution and wrongly held for almost two months before police realized they made a mistake. He’s claiming his civil rights were violated in a 100 million dollar lawsuit. His civil rights may have been violated, but the proof of racism? He’s black. That’s it. To race-baiters, that’s enough.
Mayor Williams’ job is to bring justice, the perception of justice and harmony to his community, and calling its black leaders race-baiters—even if that’s how virtually all black leaders have been talking and behaving since Ferguson—isn’t the way to accomplish these objectives. So yes, he’s wrong to use the words he did in supporting his police.
It’s also wrong to presume an Ohio city’s police officers are racists because Mike Brown charged a police officer, Eric Garner had a breathing problem, and the Cleveland 911 dispatcher forgot to tell a trigger-happy Cleveland cop that the “man with the gun” in the park was probably a kid with a toy.
Pointer: Fred does it again!