Myrtle Cole and the Community She Represents: Why Are They Angry?


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August 4, 2016 (San Diego) There is a controversy brewing and demands for recalls or the resignation of Myrtle Coie from her city council seat representing the 4th District. Why? What is the big deal? Council Member Cole used some very racially charged language. She justified over policing of the communities she represents by using the following term: “Black and black crime.” What she did is no different than what former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani did on Meet the Press not too long ago.

If this came from a white member of the council who has never been exposed to the issues of race and color, there would be an excuse. Pleading ignorance might work in that case, though it did not for Giulani. But in her case the apology is not working, There is no way Assembly Member Cole did not know how charged this term is. At least that is the feeling in the community. There are several reasons for it. First off, she is representing minority, mostly poor, communities of color. This is not language used lightly. Or at least, it should not be.

Secondly. let’s assume that in her upbringing in Arizona she was never exposed to these issues, and yes, it is possible that she grew up in a more sheltered household. We know that there is a class split in both views and attitudes developing among minority communities. Eugene Robinson writes about this in Disintegration. He describes four main experiences for African Americans, when at one time there was one.

There are the very well to do. the upper class, the middle class and those left behind in poor urban cores. Their life experiences are different. There is no doubt about that, and this also applies to attitudes and even racial attitudes.

He writes citing a 2007 Pew Study:

The Pew study found that black Americans whose incomes placed them in the vast, struggling middle—earning between $ 30,000 and $ 100,000 a year—were the most likely to believe that black people no longer constituted one race. Black Americans at the top of the scale, with incomes of more than $ 100,000 a year, were most likely to cling to the more traditional view that “blacks can still be thought of as a single race because they have so much in common.” Perhaps we should begin to think of racial solidarity as a luxury item.

So there is a chance that Cole grew up in an environment where words that are very charged in the neighborhoods she represents, were not so at home. Personally, four years ago the term black on black crime would have been mere words for me, but now I know better.

But there is a second aspect to this. Cole is a retired police lieutenant. She is firmly middle class, but as a member of law enforcement she surely had access to the same data I have access to as a reporter, This is from the Department of Justice. Most crimes committed happen between family members and neighbors. So if you live in a predominantly minority community, of course that crime will mostly be within the community. Meaning, if you live in a barrio, most crime will be among Hispanics. If you live in a black community, most crime will be among blacks, and the necessarily corollary is that if you live in a white neighborhood, most crime will be white on white. I know the last phrase you will never hear. But if we insist on using the racially charged one as a society, let’s be fair and use the other one too.

Yes, the data is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. And here it is, in all it’s glory and gore.
The data is quite clear. For 2013, and that is the UCR we are linking to, 83 percent of all white victims were victimized by other whites. 90 percent of blacks killed by blacks were killed by blacks. This is used as an excuse for the heavier police presence and over policing of communities of color. Never mind that if we lived in a less segregated society, those numbers would be different. After all, if we lived in a less segregated society, our friends and neighbors would be multi colored.

The Department of Justice report for 2011 also had similar numbers confirmed by the 2013 UCR report. It also found that most murders are intra racial as well.

What Cole did was perpetuate a stereotype. This is why people in the community are so angry. They are seeing an African American woman pushing a narrative that is all but necessary. One that also simplifies the situation. It also perpetuates an ideology, that pushes the idea that blacks are more violent than whites.

As we wrote, she is also representing communities that are over policed, and where residents have told us that at times they fear the police. These are real issue to the residents. And we are still waiting for the department to release stop data. We do remember her challenging Chief Shelley Zimmerman almost a year ago when the stop data was first released. At that time Cole said that it did look like racial profiling was happening in the neighborhoods. So we must ask what happened as well.

Do we expect this to die? No, we do not. It has been now two weeks, and talking to people in the neighborhood, we still hear the anger at Cole. If anything this might serve as a lesson to other politicians. Do your homework, and try not to use ideologically charged language.


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