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Look Back to Move Forward


Charles M. Blow

By Charles Blow, New York

December 31, 2014

Charles Blow is a NY Times columnist who writes on the topics of politics, public opinion and social justice.  His article “Look Back to Move Forward,” which was posted on the NY website New Year’s eve, is an interesting read.

Here’s Blow’s article:

The second of the two police officers ambushed and gunned down in Brooklyn by Ismaaiyl Brinsley will be laid to rest Sunday.

As was the case with the first funeral, the city and the nation should pause and pay tribute. All lives are precious.

But when the eulogies trail off and the tears dry, we must once again wrestle with the reasons we have arrived at this place, the underlying, unresolved issues: police-community relations, functional bias in policing, disparities in use of force.

We have to truly understand the politics — racial, economic and class-related — playing out before our eyes and to realize that those politics have an antecedent. There is a history here that cannot be repeated.

Before killing officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, Brinsley apparently posted on an Instagram account: “I’m putting wings on pigs today…they take one of ours, let’s take two of theirs.”

That, however, is where the similarities end. The 1988 murder was the instrument of organized criminals; the recent murders were the outcry of one deranged man trying — but failing — to latch on to the cause of organized protests.

Yet political strategists regularly see opportunity in tragedy. It happened in the case of Byrne, and we must guard against it happening again.

In 1988, George H. W. Bush was running his tough-on-crime campaign against Michael S. Dukakis, and successfully using Willie Horton — a black murderer who raped a white woman while on furlough from prison — as a weapon against Dukakis.

That year, a few weeks before the election, Bush made his first campaign appearance in the general election in New York City surrounding himself with uniformed policemen and accepting Byrne’s badge from his father. Bush said at the event that he wanted to use the occasion “to help define for you the man I am running against, throw a little red political meat out there.”

Bush won the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police that year, and he carried 40 states on Election Day, delivering a crushing blow to Dukakis and the Democrats. Bush would say later that he kept Byrne’s badge in the Oval Office.

Also in 1988, the Byrne Formula Grant Program, named after the fallen officer, was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act to supercharge the war on drugs — a disastrous boondoggle that would come to be a war waged primarily against marijuana usage by black men. As the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out in 2011, “The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites.”

Charles M. Blow has been a New York Times Op-Ed columnist since 2008. His column appears on Monday and Thursday.

Mr. Blow joined The New York Times in 1994 as a graphics editor and quickly became the paper’s graphics director, a position he held for nine years. In that role, he led The Times to a best of show award from the Society for News Design for The Times’s information graphics coverage of 9/11, the first time the award had been given for graphics coverage. He also led the paper to its first two best of show awards from the Malofiej Infographics World Summit for work that included coverage of the Iraq war. Mr. Blow became the paper’s design director for news before leaving in 2006 to become the art director of National Geographic magazine. Before joining The Times, Mr. Blow had been a graphic artist at The Detroit News.

Mr. Blow is the author of “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” released in September 2014. He graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he received a B.A. in mass communications. He lives in Brooklyn and has three children.

Follow Charles Blow on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.


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1 Comment

  1. Since this is a new year how about an outline that could help many black males detox from all this thug criminal behavior.

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