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Why Seattle’s “Black Leaders” Are Mum On Police Murders

December 15, 2009

In the weeks since Halloween night, 5 police officers in Western Washington have been gunned down in two separate attacks carried out by Black men.

I’ve previously addressed the fact that the actions of a few should never be considered representative of the whole- but there’s more to say.

I keep hearing, and reading, the same question again and again in relation to these murders: what- if any- responsibility Black people have for them, or for condemning them publicly?

The debate came up again yesterday in the comment sections of area newspapers because Christopher Monfort- the man accused of gunning down a Seattle Police officer, made his first court appearance since being released from the hospital- Monfort was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police the day he was taken into custody.

The comments look like this:

“Where are the Black Leaders of the community and why aren’t they speaking out about this tragedy and looking to address the issues of accountability with the black community. Bill Cosby has said it much better than me on this issue. The Black Community isn’t even protecting itself from each other.”

“The silence of the black community leadership is deafening. Not only the local black community and the national black leadership for that matter. Where is Jesse and Al when we really need them?”

“Funny there hasn’t been any comments from the black leadership in the community regarding this and the other assassinations of police officers in Seattle. Frankly it doesn’t surprise me and tells me that the black leadership not speaking out it somehow gives the impression of approval.”

My first question is very simple- who exactly are these so-called “Black leaders?” and secondly, who decides they are worthy of such a title?

Here’s one that may be a bit tougher for folks- why does it take a verbal damnation of these mens’ actions to “convince” or otherwise assure a large population right here in the PNW that Black people as a whole do not condone murder?

I’ll attempt a stab at a few of these.

Number one- Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP and the Urban League are not leaders “of” the Black community- period.  Sharpton and Jackson are self-important men with little relevance to the current state of racism or race relations- despite what they’ll surely insist themselves.  Call me a Black rogue opp if you want, but the truth of the matter is there are millions of Black people in this country who share this opinion.  Just because they crown themselves leaders, and are affirmed by the media, doesn’t make it so.  David Duke refers to himself as a leader of all good White people- who agrees with him?  How many would be comfortable with the rest of us deciding that what he said spoke for an entire race of people, regardless of personal behavior, beliefs or morals?

Number two- the “Black community” does not now, nor will it ever need to be accountable for what these two men did- period.  If I as a Black person am somehow responsible for Monfort or Clemmons, then damnit every White person on the planet is personally responsible for the actions of Timothy McVeigh.  End of story.

Number three- the fact that these so-called “leaders” have not come out and given public statements “condemning” the shootings (and the shooters) is not proof that said individuals “approve” of what happened.  Instead it shows that we (meaning Black people) know that doing so is pointless- because we’re not responsible for what happened- the shooters are responsible for what happened.  They acted alone- not on behalf of Black solidarity or the Black community.  Can one even accurately define what the Black community is based on these two situations?  Hell no.  Give me a break already.

These kinds of attitudes and opinions are not really a condemnation of Black people or our “leaders”- but of those who write it, think it, and believe it.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Debra Berry permalink
    December 15, 2009 6:33 am

    You are on point about Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the NAACP. I don’t know much about the Urban League (guess I need to look up some info on them), but the ACLU is another group I’m no fan of. I’m not a member of the Black community, but I’ve been around long enough to know that many Black people do not consider Reverends Jackson and Sharpton to be leaders. I’ve seen more than a few eye rolls when those names are spoken, much like the mention of men like David Duke and August Kreis III makes me roll my eyes and point my finger at my throat while pretending to gag. These hate-mongers really seem to think they speak for their race, but I know most members of their race will heartily disagree.

    Maurice Clemmons and Christopher Monfort were individuals who took it upon themselves to murder police officers and in Maurice Clemmons’ case, family members and friends took it upon themselves to help him attempt to avoid arrest. These are the actions of individuals; not the actions of or the reason to indict the Black community as a whole. Anybody who tries to put the blame on the Black community or treats our Black citizens like prospective criminals is out of line.

    There’s one reason why I have actually been wanting to hear Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton say something about the murders of these police officers. I’m incredibly curious about their silence because I don’t believe they would be silent if Black police officers were murdered by a White man or a Jew. Maybe I am wrong about this, but I don’t think I am. I can’t help wonder how silent the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton would be if some White man decided to execute four Black officers because he was angry about spending time in prison.

    Also, thanks to Tacoma Associated Ministries for coming to the Forza Coffee site and conducting prayers for the officers and their families. Skin color didn’t matter; what mattered was a show of support for the community and compassion for the victims. People who claim the local Black community has said nothing don’t know what they are talking about; maybe they just aren’t listening.

  2. Sable permalink*
    December 15, 2009 9:30 am

    Debra,

    I think it’s a moot point. First, we’re all assuming the Rev’s know about what happened here with both shootings, and second, if they believe themselves to be leaders of a certain community- then obviously they would find it necessary to comment if the situation were reversed and 5 Black officers were killed by White gunmen; it may be safe to assume how they’d react to that. But that’s a reflection of the two of them- not “us”.

  3. Crystal permalink
    December 15, 2009 10:18 am

    First, I wholeheartedly agree that these alleged “Black Leaders” are only validated by the media. Most Black people I know, including me, find them irrelevant and counterproductive. I didn’t vote for or endorse any of them. The only reason that (mostly non-Black) people still view them as “Black Leaders” is because they are always willing to jump in front of a camera and the media gleefully invites them to do so, knowing a spectacle is sure to ensue.

    Second, local “Black Leaders” (AKA, the 4 or so Black people the Times, tv and radios stations believe represent all Black people in the Puget Sound) have publicly condemned these shootings. I don’t know why people assume they haven’t. However, my point remains the same because I don’t feel that the Seattle NAACP, or ministers of churches of which I am not a member, represent me either.

    I was shocked and horrified by the brutal murders of Officer Brenton and the 4 Lakewood officers. These murders deeply disturbed me, and most Black (and non-Black) people I know. I was no more or less horrified because of the color of my skin, or because some faux leader did or didn’t say anything about it.

  4. Debra Berry permalink
    December 16, 2009 2:24 am

    I think it’s relevant because it sounds like people are wrong for wondering why the usual loudmouths suddenly have laryngitis. Some people are misguided and REALLY think Reverend Jackson, Reverend Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan represent the Black community instead of representing their own selfish, racist agendas. I know people from “back home” who still have never met a Black person; they base their opinions on what they see on television when they watch the news–bet you can’t guess who that is??

    Yes, I agree that any lack of comment reflects on the Reverends only. Maybe they haven’t heard anything; maybe they’re working on the “Christopher Monfort Defense Fund”, maybe it’s irrelevant to them because it’s not something they can make high profile. I’ll be watching to see if either Reverend, the NAACP or the ACLU ever comes out in support of these murderers. I’ll always be curious about their lack of commentary because I believe anybody who only condemns acts against their perceived “own people” is just as much as a racist as the racists they condemn. But then, I guess some people only think it’s discrimination when it happens to the group they identify with.

    “then obviously they would find it necessary to comment if the situation were reversed and 5 Black officers were killed by White gunmen; it may be safe to assume how they’d react to that.” Exactly–there would be no shutting them up. I can already hear it, “Those “White Devils” are murderers sent by the Jews to annihilate our Black brothers and sisters.” Then here come the riots…people are obviously listening to these men.

  5. Hector permalink
    December 18, 2009 7:48 pm

    Good on you all for speaking up & showing those of us in the rest of the world that most people are decent, considerate & self-reflective.

    Sable’s concluding statement in the article indicates where the scapegoating & name-calling comes from: “These kinds of attitudes and opinions are not really a condemnation of Black people or our ‘leaders’- but of those who write it, think it, and believe it.”

  6. December 21, 2009 6:02 am

    Hi to you Sable Verity,

    As a mere observer from the other side of the atlantic I will say that blogs such as yours is where I get real information regarding what matters on a local level in far away places. Very good post this one too.
    Happy Christmas to you and yours.

  7. jane doe permalink
    December 21, 2009 6:25 pm

    I understand where you are coming from Sable BUT at the same time I understand why white people say that. You say “If I as a Black person am somehow responsible for Monfort or Clemmons, then damnit every White person on the planet is personally responsible for the actions of Timothy McVeigh.” The difference is white people don’t go out and protest when we are the victims of injustice by black people but there are many blacks who do when it is the other way around. There are black people who go out and protest everything from Michael Richards to Sean Bell incident to Jena 6. So it is only fair that some people are going to point out that, for instance, the same people who were going crazy about Michael Richards using the “n word” aren’t goin crazy when Jesse Jackson used it and that wrong. Other people point out that if it was 6 white teenagers who stomped to death a black male it would be national news, considered a hate crime, and if they only got 30 days “detention” all hell would break loose. Same with the James Paroline situation. I do think if it was an elderly black male and it was 2 white females who had acted that way they would be charged with their part of that. Yet Ebony Sheppard and the other one got off scott free. Yet no one will demand this injustice be rectified for fear of ebing called racist.
    Again, there is a double standard cause a lot of black folks will holler loudly when whites, asians, or jews committ some transgresson, major or minor, yet there are no activists protesting when it is the other way around. This is why white people bitch about the lack of “black activists” because they DO come out of the woodwork when their community is victimized. Yet there is no one willing to advocate for the “white community” without being called racist.

  8. sandra X permalink
    December 21, 2009 7:01 pm

    #1 said ” I don’t believe they would be silent if Black police officers were murdered by a White man or a Jew.”

    Thank you! EXACTLY. I saw a video on youtube a few weeks ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GwFblTVVkE) where a half dozen or more young African American males mug an elderly couple IN MCDONLALDS! WTF!! Young African America males make up 1/2 of 1/10 of 1% of the Portland population! I’m sorry Sable, but if there a a video showing a dozen asian young men or wearing yamuke’s mugging an elderly black couple in a Harlem McDonalds there would be VERY vocal anger and hate speech. It is not your fault Sable, that many leaders in the African American community demonized other groups. But a lot of us resent having black folks getting a free pass yaping about Korean grocers, Jewish landlords, and “entitled” white women. A lot of us noticed that they don’t speak that often or as hostile about taxi driver killers, old lady muggers, pimps. A korean man who works 70 hours a week for $15,000 a year is “exploting the black community” whereas a black male who murders an old koren woman to buy a bottle of Crystal is a victim of poverty and injustice. I never see outrage in the black community when Jews and Asians are victimzed by violent black crime and it sure as hell isn’t a two way street.
    I read a scathing comment from Russell Simmons where he called the head of a Jewish group “arroungant and ignorant” and that his actions “would make millions of black people think negatively abotu Jews”. What did the guy do? He criticized Simmons for his support of Farrkhan! ha ha! It shows a lot about how some black people, inluding Simmons, that they feel criticizing a black male will cause “millions” of black people to become anti-semitic. The same time he said this an elderly Jewish man was brutually murdered by two black thugs and a 101 year old woman was assaulted and mugged by a young black male, but apparently Simmons didn’t notice- he was too riled up that a Jew had the nerve to criticize a black male. Yet we can all see young black males are disproporataly involved in violent crime, especially towards the elderly and women. Has it never occured to Simmons and Co. this causes racism? What nerve. And yet this is a mentatlity I have seen again and again in black males- a slight to the black ego is a worse crime then the mugging of an old lady. Then we get get to hear the same diatribe about how important “respect” is to black people.

  9. December 25, 2009 3:35 am

    I am up on this Christmas morning reading this not because I am morbid but because I have to get through this night and be up for my girls tomorrow morning. They have been hustling and cooking and preparing to host their parents for Christmas. It is a rough day for us, it is the birthday of a sister who died of breast cancer and it is the day a sister friend had a brain aneurysm. Three years ago at Christmas we spent a week in the Harborview ICU family room gathering with doctors for family reports on the swelling on the brain. I know that unit well. I wish this place on no family or friend. With that said those calling for any African American to step up and speak as one voice for the many feelings that eminnate from individual African Americans is silly and without bearing.
    I am a former elected official that makes me a prominent African American but not the leader or a spokesperson of all African Americans in Seattle or Washington. But I can say this assuredly, African Americans feel the same as whites on these shootings of police officers. They do not feel differently about the shootings by two African American men then they do about most recent shooting by a white man. And we are hoping that whites share this reality. I saw on the news retired Assistant Chief Harry Bailey an African American speak at two press conferences, both organized by African Americans. He said pretty much what I have heard white police officers say about the shootings. I have seen African Americans responding on television with tears strewn faces of horror and grief. Not sure if they suffice as leaders. What are White Leaders in Eatonville saying? That of course is cynical question that should not have an answer. It only points out the double standard that is being exacted on African Americans.

    This is what I know personally, the Mundel family is in a room with other families who are praying for a miracle for their loved one, please God let him live no matter what that life might be like. Please God remove the swelling. They are not looking at other families and distinguishing grief based on race. There are boxes of drinks, snacks and other items being delivered to the room with notes from families who have been in this place to bring a small bit of comfort because they know and understand.

    It is disappointing that any would relate these shooters as being more representative of a race than of those who are demented and criminally inclined, lost their way along the way. Crable, Montfort and Clemson who have committed these crimes have much in common with each other, even as their racial make ups are varied (Montfort and Cabble are sons of white women, Clemmons the son of a black woman). They have nothing in common with African American and White men or any other human.

    It is a difficult time for many, not a good time for the haters to continue to hate. If any of those who made the comments about black leaders tried to know us as African Americans, they would have been able to see the many who have appeared in various ways. They would have seen the African American women dressed in white holding prayer vigil at the site of the Timothy Brenton Shooting. They would know that African Americans packed the press conference calling for the ban of assault weapons in WA, even though a white male dominated Washington NRA will prevail and convince an almost all white legislature that they better not even try it. Is this a racial issue, no the majority of Washington residents of all ethnic definitions would like to see such a ban.

    These are not simple issues with simple solutions. If the those who have made the comments would tell us the names of the people they need to hear from to bring satisfaction to their personal need in all of this, I think they would say what the many televised, interviewed and commenting African Americans have said. They have said what the white people in Eatonville have said. This is a tragedy, we are concerned, we pray for the families, something needs to be done.

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