Saturday, June 16, 2007

The "lynching" of Ed Jew? Playing the race card

Dee Yu Nei is right to deplore the unseemly piling on by members of the Board of Supervisors (below in italics) in the Ed Jew scandal. The supervisors should know better. It shows why some people have contempt for politicians: They seem incapable of keeping their big yaps shut whenever the media asks them for a comment, even though that would be the right thing to do in this situation. Supervisors Alioto-Pier and Elsbernd, along with Mayor Newsom, have been honorable examples of reticence during the Ed Jew fiasco.

But the hyperbole about lynching, tar and feathering, and racism is outrageous bullshit. It degrades the city's political life to play the race card so quickly with so little justification. Calvin Louie may be a loyal friend to Ed Jew, but he does his credibility and the city a disservice when he says, "The press has already prosecuted him, convicted him, and now they want to hang him...I thought that happened in the South 150 years ago." ("Supporters say Ed Jew is victim of racism," Heather Knight, June 16, 2007) The press is just doing its job by pursuing the story; it's not their fault if the people they interview say dumb and irresponsible things.

The lynching of black people in the South, by the way, was happening as recently as 40 years ago, not 150 years ago, which would take us back to the pre-Civil War, slavery era. Comparing Ed Jew's troubles---entirely of his own making and not life-threatening---to the murder of black people in the South trivializes that historic evil, while degrading the city's political dialogue.

Unfortunately, it's not an uncommon tactic in city politics, though it's often black people who are quick to play the race card, as per this story in yesterday's Chronicle:

A young woman who was afraid to have her name appear in print echoed that sentiment. "I don't want to be racist, but I'll say this," she said. "All year, kids have been getting shot, but the police didn't do anything about it until that white man got shot. We're all human. We all bleed the same." She was referring to Jason Steinberg, 32, who lives across the street from Friendship Village and was knocked to the ground Wednesday by a bullet that blasted through the metal gate in front of his home and hit his left thigh. ("Living in the cross fire," Jim Doyle, SF Chronicle, June 16, 2007)

The question is, Why is it young black men who are doing most of the shooting in SF? Why aren't young white men shooting each other? Could it be the toxic effects of the pervasive gangsta/hip/hop culture on young men in black neighborhoods that motivates the Punks with Guns? I've advanced this explanation before, and, not surprisingly, the idea hasn't achieved much traction here in Progressive Land, where, in some prog circles, individual members of officially designated Oppressed Classes are never entirely responsible for their misbehavior.

Rose Pak disavowed Dee Yu Nei's interpretation succinctly and forthrightly in yesterday's Chronicle: "Our community leaders should not bury their head in the sand and try to blame it on somebody else...I wish these people would stop talking so everybody doesn't think we're all morons."

In AsianWeek, Samson Wong sort of half-way plays the race card:

San Francisco's Ed Jew---lone Asian Pacific American among 11 district supervisors---is innocent until proven otherwise. But with the city's entire governmental apparatus bearing down upon the champion of fair student assignments and lower utility rates, how would the political plays line up if Mayor Newsom were to name a replacement? (AsianWeek, June 15, 2007)

This suggests that city government is "bearing down" on Jew---the only Asian-American on the BOS---because of his ethnic background and his advocacy for "fair student assignments and lower utility rates," which adds another layer of the fanciful to the ethnic interpretation of his difficulties.

Interesting to note that the "Stop the Lynching" head on Dee Yu Nei's article was used on the PROSF version, but the Chronicle was more restrained with this head: "What's the rush to get rid of Ed Jew?" (June 15, 2007). The preposterous and inflamatory PROSF head---presumably chosen by the author---was a better reflection of the outrageous contents of the piece. The "lone Chinaman" usage in paragraph five was also absent from the Chronicle's version.


Stop the Lynching, Due Process for Ed Jew
By Dee Yu Nei

"The appearance is so bad, we don't need to wait for a trial," said Jake McGoldrick, the Supervisor of District 1, jumping on the bandwagon to lynch-mob fellow Supervisor Ed Jew of District 4. This sounds like an echo of Sen. Joe McCarthy, who didn't bother to wait for a trial, before hounding government employees out of their jobs in the Red-scare 1950's.

Would Jake the Pure so rush to judgment and declare we don't need to hear any more, test and weigh any facts, or examine any evidence before tar n' feathering a citizen of these United States, a native San Franciscan and Californian?

What if Ed Jew was a woman, gay or Black? Would Jake dare to say, " we don't need to wait for a trial" before kicking out a man duly elected by the voters of District 4 without so much as a hearing? That's what calling for his resignation means.

Is the life of a Chinese American person so cheap that Jake can waive the American Constitutional right to a fair trial, to the presumption of innocence, and his day in court before being stripped of his dignity and office? Let alone his family and community? And where do members of the press, who so vehemently guard their right to free speech and champion themselves as the voice and conscience of the people, get off not challenging Jake's sentence, "we don't need to wait for a trial." To kick Jew out without due process, without just cause?

Maybe the press too is caught up in the hunt, like hounds bounding in the woods, feeding off the scent of wounded prey. Certainly Jake McGoldrick's fellow supervisors are chomping at the bit to get rid of Ed Jew, the lone Chinaman, Asian American on the Board of the City That Knows How. Listen to what they have said:

"If I was in his place, I would [resign]. It is his own decision, but unless he has some remarkable story that he has not yet told to give people confidence ... that would be the upstanding thing to do." – Aaron Peskin. That's bullshit. Pressure Jew to resign and spare us the hard decisions is what the Board President is really saying.

Ditto Tom Ammiano: "A resignation would be the best thing." Save us the dirty work.
"No way." – Chris Daly. ""I'm a strong believer in innocent until proven guilty….The only difference here is that if he did what he admitted doing in the newspaper, then it appears the laws were violated." And you believe everything you read in the newspapers? Worse yet, you subscribe to trial by media?

"Supervisor Jew needs to answer the hard questions, not let this investigation go on much longer." – Ross Mirkarimi. Not let the fact-finding go on much longer? This is enough to render verdict? You mean halt the due process, suspend the presumption of innocence and throw out fairness because the political media circus is making it hard for you to concentrate on your job? I thought upholding fairness is one of your most sacred duties. Oh, you're running for re-election. Or still entertaining the Mayoral run?

"Only Ed and his conscience can tell him what to do at this point." -- Bevan Dufty. A backhanded thumbs down if ever there was one. Sounds like he's taking the high road but really a subterfuge to say get Jew outta here.

And then there's good neighbor Sean Elsbernd of District 7. I heard KCBS report that Sean invited constituents of District 4 to call his office if they needed help. Like you're doing a terrific job with your constituents' pot holes, traffic safety and golf courses and can spare some effort to help the downtrodden across the border! Is this a re-election ploy?

How can these politicians act as impartial jurors sitting in judgment of one of their own. What is the source of their rush to judgment? Jew is so vile and repugnant a reflection of our own potential for evil that he must be scourged and his community humiliated by San Francisco vigilantism? Or is it the lure of the headlines? Mayor Gavin Newsom and District Attorney Kamala Harris are running for re-election right now so we can see how this story makes them look good. But Jake, Chris, Tom, Bevan, Aaron, you aren't running for re-election. Or is it a bigger office?

Why the rush? Where's the fair play? What happened to due process? I ask you, servants of the people and members of the press, whither truth, justice and the American way? As we search for truth and render justice let us not forget the American way: fair play.
###
Dee Yu Nei is a native San Franciscan who was educated in public schools.

Labels: , ,