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Double Redundant

By Kathy Y. Wilson · July 25th, 2002 · Your Negro Tour Guide
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I am not an apologist.

It's difficult for many Negroes to say the same.

When one of us does something wrong, though, it's no better or worse than when a person of any other race takes a misstep.

Perhaps suspended Cincinnati Police Lt. Col. Ron Twitty panicked during what might have begun as a small thing. Then it got bigger, beyond his grasp -- and here we are.

Nope, the facts aren't all in and they might never be. Why?

'Til the end of this debacle, Twitty's probably going to stick to his take of the events that smacked up his city-owned Ford Taurus. Couple that with the public's general mistrust of the Cincinnati Police Department and we've got ourselves a race-encrusted stalemate.

The investigation has thus far been an overcompensatory dog-and-pony show staged to quiet the cops' detractors, who've criticized their infamous inability to police themselves.

In the eye of this racial, political and even economic maelstrom is Twitty -- the Invisible Man. Twitty naively thinks that because former Cincinnati officers, namely Stephen Roach and Robert Jorg, got away with half-truths, maybe -- just maybe -- the same tactic could work for him.

Now we all know he couldn't have been more wrong. Tom Streicher Wayne saw to that. Saying after the fact, during fallout from the travesty that was the Roach trial, that any cops found lying during an investigation are subject to firing registers pretty high on the Duh! Scale. Shouldn't that edict have been firmly in place since the formation of the police force or at least the beginning of Streicher's tenure?

What of the officers who left the force before they could be more fully investigated, the ones who ran like rats off a sinking ship? Jorg slipped out by the skin of his head when Officer Victor Spellen flipped his testimony to say that Jorg had, in fact, used a more forceful hold on Roger Owensby Jr.

But alas, how can you fire someone who beats you to it by running and quitting?

You can't. Which is why Streicher's new rules are aimed squarely now at Twitty, whose offense yet fits the punishment already doled out and that still to come.

Twitty is being made an example, the first one up to bat in Cincinnati's New Deal on Racism, during which we see the mayor and city manager so far out of the loop they have to (tip) toe the line in the media, so as not to appear as uninformed and angry as they surely must be.

This is what happens when a city -- its so-called leaders, its sleeping citizenry, the powerbrokers and have-nots alike -- allow race, class and cops to dervish so far out of control they end up landing in control.

Get it? Suddenly, a cop's behavior that wouldn't have otherwise registered a blip on the misbehavior radar morphs itself into leverage for the West Wing of the boycott. In a move akin to chess, the National Urban League exercised its right not to visit the black sheep of its family, saying it was "deeply upset by the timing of the suspension of Twitty."

Likewise, the Twitty factor lights up talk radio phone lines and water coolers. Everybody's got theories.

Including me.

Even though he probably does, Streicher has no right behaving as though he runs this city, calling a press conference so grave you would've thought Twitty was a Kennedy and there was a body in the Chappaquiddick/Ohio River.

Instead of running about begging up business for the city (emphasis on begging), Mayor Charlie Luken should stay put and run this city or soon there'll be little to come back to.

As for Twitty, it's hot right now for you, brother, but I implore you to tell the whole truth and nothing but. It'll make it easier on yourself, and you'll garner still more respect.

Besides, disclosing all the information will give the truth a chance, thereby disrobing race from this monster. Right now it looks as if you're depending on the continued outcry of black supporters to shout down your detractors.

It's unfair that you'd let others do your work.

Finally, to illustrate the ageless yet tattered state of the race card, an anecdote from the great Billie Holiday. In Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, a musical dramatizing the last year of Holiday's life, the singer recounts how serving a sentence of one year and one day on a 1947 dope charge in Alderson Prison in West Virginia was "what's called double redundant."

It's very much like life around these parts for Negroes -- damned if we do and damned if we are.

But I'm not apologizing. Someone should, but it won't be me.



Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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