Retaliation and Systemic Racism at Root of “Pointergate” Story

15837162115 9749e4454f bOn Nov. 19, protesters gathered outside the studios of Minneapolis/St. Paul television news station, KSTP-TV in protest of the airing of a Nov. 7 story. Dubbed “#Pointergate,” the story accused Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges of flashing a gang sign in a photo with Navell Gordon, a young African American man. The two had been canvassing the neighborhood in a get out the vote campaign. The story, many community members believe, was a retaliation tactic. Sourced by Minneapolis law enforcement, the piece aired after Hodges posted an open letter to the community on Oct. 8 that took a stance against police brutality by outlining tangible measures for more police accountability. Retaliation and systemic racism, however, hold no novelty. While a colorful mosaic of factors exploded the story on to the national landscape via social media. It is the sentiments of the community, the location and the pulsating motivations underneath the story that reveal another compelling take.

15813527276 1d80e05ba2 bPeople of color who stand up and tell the truth about white privilege more often than not become targets, as do those who stand in support of them—even if they are high profile targets like Hodges. That is the sentiment of the community, but nevertheless the truth. “Their [law enforcement] larger agenda is to intimidate Mayor Hodges against holding corrupt police accountable and having transparency in the Minneapolis police department,” says Michaela Day who was one of the protesters. “It’s an issue of them trying to smear her name and flat out intimidate her.”

African American men bear the brunt of it by far, particularly young men like Gordon. “Nevall has a target on him more than Betsy Hodges,” says Keno Evol, community member, “because Nevall has been carrying around the same skin all his life and Betsy Hodges hasn’t been carrying around the mayor position all her life.”

But U.S. policies are written and implemented to sustain the white power structure. They promote white privilege while simultaneously, disempower and relegate non -whites to second class citizenship. Government employees of color are routinely intimidated into leaving their jobs, with no recourse. Injustice by design crowds our jails, hospitals, court rooms, and unemployment rolls with people of color. And it robs our children of their futures. Lack of accountability gives the perpetrators the freedom to do so simply because they can. Hodges’ letter threatens the status quo. Minnesota, however, is a liberal state which afforded the mayor support she needed from the community to take the much needed stance for equal rights.

The white power structure’s tactical strategies have always been motivated by fear. They have, however, gained momentum with a panicked sense of urgency in the swollen beneath the surface knowledge of what was once an inconceivable notion. The nation’s demography is changing and simply put, it’s a threat to the privileged life that those in power have grown accustomed to.

This lack of control of the demography called for a new, two-tiered strategy. The first tier was the demonization of immigrants. The second tier was disempowerment. Disempowerment fuels disparity on every level and can therefore continue to facilitate white privilege, despite the new majority. But Minnesota cannot afford continued disparities.

The state of Minnesota has some of the highest disparities between whites and people of color in the nation. According to a 2013 study by the Council on Black Minnesotans (COBM) the highest disparities were in education and criminal justice. And according to the same study, while Minnesota ranked high in the nation for economic well-being and in the top 10 for low unemployment, it simultaneously had the highest rate of unemployment in the nation for African-Americans.

“Consequently, the Black to White unemployment ratio of 3.3 was the highest among all states,” says the COBM report.

As these disparities hurt the state overall and ultimately the nation, it can only be deduced that the true motivation behind the sourcing and airing of the story of Hodges and Gordon simply pointing at each other in a photo can only be perceived as racist and retaliatory.

In a Nov. 19 press release, The Minnesota Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (MNSPJ), The Twin Cities chapters of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association join MNSPJ called for KSTP to disavow the story. A public forum to discuss the issue will be held at Cowles Auditorium at the University of Minnesota on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.

For video, images and interviews from the Nov. 19 protest, visit the links below.

Keno Evol, Community Member:
Michaela Day, Community Member:
Amber Gay, Save the Kids Twin Cites:
Michaela Speaks:
Time to Apologize:
Police Accountability:

December 1, 2014
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