Structural racism is a real thing. That became clear last night when KSTP heavily promoted and ran a TV news story alleging that Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges “flashed a gang sign” (reality check: she’s pointing) while doing GOTV canvassing.
In the picture with Mayor Hodges was an African-American canvasser employed by Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, a grassroots, member-led nonprofit that builds power in low- and moderate-income Twin Cities neighborhoods through community organizing. He is on probation for a non-violent offense, a fact which NOC knew. On MPR this morning, NOC ED Anthony Newby said that NOC is proud to give folks like Navell Gordon a second chance with a living wage job.
NOC members knocked on 55,000 doors, pledged 17,000 people to vote, and filled 600 volunteer shifts this year. NOC helped increase voter turnout in two north Minneapolis precincts by 13% compared to 2010.
The story blew up, big time. St. Thomas Law Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds wrote a powerful piece for the Star Tribune about the KSTP story. She writes:
After processing the contents of the story, I thought about the tens of thousands of white Minnesotans who tuned into the news and were served a steady diet of racial stereotypes, innuendoes, and a false narrative about the Mayor and the young African American man standing beside her in the photo.
For white Minnesotans who do not personally know any young African American men, it is all too easy to take the media’s word as absolute truth and embrace the negative racial stereotypes that are being perpetuated about the young man in the photo.
Here’s a quick (though by no means comprehensive) news roundup:
- Poynter: TV station accuses mayor of “flashing a known gang sign,” parks “#pointergate”
- Daily Kos: #pointergate may be the most racist news story of 2014
- Pioneer Press: Minneapolis’ #pointergate: Next stop, “The Daily Show”?
- IB Times: What is Pointergate? Twitter Mocks Outrage After Minnesota Mayor Poses For a Picture with a Felon
- Vanity Fair: “Pointergate” is the Most Pathetic News Story of the Week
- Star Tribune: Social media erupts with #pointergate after Mayor Hodges’ “gang sign” TV report
- Raw Story: #PointerGate: Twitter mocks “racist” TV report about Minneapolis mayor flashing “gang signs”
- MPR: How a gesture from the Minneapolis mayor became #pointergate
- Star Tribune: KSTP report generates #pointergate firestorm
- Salon: Mayor and black volunteer take photo and are accused of flashing “gang sign”
- Huffington Post: Mayor Takes Photo with Black Volunteer, Local News and Police Somehow See a “Gang Sign”
- Bring Me The News: Report of Minneapolis mayor’s purported “gang sign” results in wave of criticism
The Internet has wisely highlighted that if pointing makes you part of a gang, basically ever celebrity ever is a gang member.