Monday, November 22, 2010

Rangel is Black; NYPD is Blue

Congressman Charlie Rangel will face a vote on censure after Thanksgiving despite the fact that his conduct does not warrant a censure based on any reasonable understanding of history. The NYPD acknowledged last week that it has failed to provide translators to non-English speakers.

Charlie Rangel Is Black

Last week, the US House of Representatives Ethics Committee voted 9 to 1 to seek to censure Charlie Rangel, who has represented Harlem for 40 years with dignity and excellence. Congressman Rangel is a war hero and a role model, yet, the Ethics Committee voted to seek to censure him while admitting that they had no evidence that he had ever done anything to enrich himself.

No one has been censured by the US House since 1983 - 27 years ago. The most recent censures were as a result of sexual contact between members of Congress and teenage high-school students serving as Congressional pages under the care of Congress.

Nonetheless, the Ethics Committee is seeking the censure.

The Ethics Committee's approach is troubling in its unfairness. In recent years, members of Congress have worked to find jobs for the husbands of their mistresses and gone unpunished. Members have solicited sex in airport bathrooms and gone unpunished. There is a Republican member of Congress who made exactly the same financial disclosure mistake that Charlie Rangel made, but he has not even faced an ethics investigation. There are many other examples of conduct that is far more troubling than that of Charlie Rangel, but the members engaging in that conduct face no punishment and rarely face investigation.

Nonetheless, the Ethics Committee is seeking censure.

We have commented that the Ethics Committee treats African American lawmakers very differently from other lawmakers. Charlie Rangel is African American, and those who have engaged in the same conduct without punishment are not African American. We have also commented that Charlie Rangel's conduct - self-reported bookkeeping errors that harmed no one, did not help Charlie Rangel, and which were corrected - should not result in any punishment by the House. The voters in Upper Manhattan have re-elected Charlie Rangel with 80% of the vote, and in doing so, we gave our opinion of the quality of his service as well as our willingness to forgive sloppy bookkeeping.

Charlie Rangel is Black and has been Black for 80 years. He should know by now that the rules of Black people are different than for other people. It is a sad lesson that all Black people must grudgingly accept - we are subject to greater scrutiny and held to higher standards than other people. This reality is not acceptable, but it is the reality. Having a Black-sounding name makes one twice as likely to be rejected for a job opportunity before the first interview. The net worth of the median Black household is one-fifteenth that of the median white household. All Black people should remember that when we demonstrate the same weaknesses and deficiencies as other people, we will be punished where others are not and punished more severely than others.

White members of Congress are censured for having sex with teenagers under the care of Congress, and a Black member of Congress faces censure for bookkeeping errors that other members of Congress have committed during the same time period.

It is not fair, but it is the reality. Charlie Rangel is Exhibit A of this unfairness.

NYPD Language Barrier

An audit discovered that the NYPD has only 12 certified Spanish-speaking interpreters for our vast city of over 1 million Spanish speakers. To make matters worse, because the NYPD has only 12 interpreters, officers routinely ask those accused of domestic violence to interpret the words of the alleged victims. They often use the children of alleged victims as translators as well. Common sense would suggest that we need a better system, but the NYPD's record on stop-and-frisk tells us that common sense is not the governing principal of NYPD policy.

This most recent revelation confirms that the leadership of the NYPD should resign and that we need a new Mayor as well. The current team will not fix these problems because they don't see the abuse of communities of color by the NYPD as a problem.

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