Whew. Yesterday was a day on ChicagoNow. I don't know if you were a part of it, but there was a huge fight brewing. If you missed the shouting match over Joe the Cop's post, "CTA Red line Shooting: The Ghetto Shooting Template," we'll recap it for you.
A few days ago, Joe the Cop, police officer and ChicagoNow blogger wrote a few pieces on the recent shooting of 19 year-old George Lash by police on an El train. You can't read the post that made everyone so angry - the big wigs at ChicagoNow decided to take it down. But you can read the cached version, courtesy of Google.
Joe made the point that Lash's shooting has played out like many other police use of force incidents. News reports say the cops were called to a red line train because a man had a gun. The police say that when they approached Lash, he began to fight with them and pointed a gun at them. They then shot him. Lash died later at the hospital.
Part of Joe's post criticizes the media coverage surrounding the shooting. Take a look at his other post on the subject - Why Cops Love the Media: CTA Red Line Shooting Coverage. He fairly criticizes us reporters for using anonymous sources or people who say they didn't actually see what happened. He lays out what usually happens - a young black man with an arrest record is shot by police. Witnesses, often who won't cooperate with police, say it was unwarranted. Family comes forward, saying the young man was a good person. Then, the family sues the police and the city pays them a settlement.
It's not a pretty story. It's not a nice story. It's not a story anyone likes to hear. But that doesn't mean it's not a true story, or at least, a true perspective from someone who's been the one who gets the call that there's a guy with a gun on a train.
Joe said some pretty inflammatory things. Near the end of his post, he writes, "The harsh reality is, George Lash will be a better provider for his family as the subject of a civil lawsuit than he was ever going to be in his adult life."
That set off a lot of commenters (57, to be exact), but it really embroiled Frank Sennett, editor-in-chief of Time Out Chicago. Sennnett read the post yesterday and launched a firestorm of criticism on Joe, the post, and ChicagoNow on twitter. Take a gander:
I do agree that what Joe said was incredibly blunt and perhaps insensitive. Maybe I'm biased because I actually know Joe as a real person and have found him, unlike the stereotype of a cop, to be a very open-minded, smart guy.
If Frank Sennett or you or I disagree with Joe's perspective, then we have the obligation to say so. But to push for his post to be taken down, or for Joe to be suspended from ChicagoNow? To me, that's not progress - it's just censorship.
It's an odd coincidence that this happened on the day that I decided to write a post called "Let's get real on race." The post is about how we talk very differently about race in the public than we do in private. That's not a good thing. We may know how to be politically correct, but that just masks a bigger problem. But when we use political correctness as a reason to never say what we're feeling or the hard truth, we never get at the root of the problem.
Every time you shove an idea down and censor it, we move backward in the fight against racism. If we can't be honest about how we feel and what our experiences are, we'll never move forward. If being honest about our own perspective means someone will viciously attack us until we're no longer allowed a forum, no one will ever be honest, for fear of what they might be called.
If you want to do something about racism, spark a discussion.