Some readers – both black and white – fail to see the bias in a racially charged letter written by a Philly homicide detective after he became upset about an odor emanating from beef rib bones in a wastebasket.
They suggest that because Detective Jimmy Crone — now being investigated by Internal Affairs because of the letter — didn't use the words black or African American, he wasn't necessarily making a racial statement.
I beg to differ.
In the letter, which was taped above a trash can for all in the Homicide Unit to see, Crone referred to an unnamed colleague as a "filthy savage" and accused his father of having been "absent." Those are racial code words. Insults. And I'm glad that Police Commissioner Richard Ross is taking it seriously.
The contents of that letter are even more disturbing than whatever was in that wastebasket. You don't call a coworker a "savage" and not have it be construed as some sort of racial insult. Similarly, Florida Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis sparked outrage Wednesday after he said in a TV interview that voters shouldn't "monkey this up" by electing Democrat Andrew Gillum, who is black.
Crone, a 22-year veteran of the force, is white and has admitted writing the letter. The Homicide Unit, in which he works, is about 50 percent black.
My suggestion for those who don't get it is to read that angry letter again, making sure not to skim past the colorful language and the imagery used. Remember that Crone is an officer of the law, a public servant duty-bound to serve the public. That means everybody, regardless of social class, race, or educational level.
At one point, he writes: "Now, in that I have a sense of etiquette and social fluency instilled in me from my upbringing by traditional, caring parents, I am offended by this. Alas, that same education prevents me from being upset with you — you can't blame a filthy savage for being a filthy savage."
Remember that this country has a long tradition of referring to black people as "savages" and of making us appear less than civilized because our ancestors hail from Africa. It's been going on since this country was formed and is an old trope right up there with Aunt Jemima, Mammy, and Uncle Tom. (Did you eat at Sambo's back in the day?) You would think that by 2018, Americans would have moved past other-izing blacks. But as we see from President Trump's Twitter feed, that's not the case.
At another point, Crone writes: "As I'm sure you were not burdened by significant schooling, and were birthed to an alcoholic, absent father and a rancid whore of a mother, you are simply ignorant of the fact that you are little more than an upright animal."
Note Crone's stereotypical assumption that the letter recipient grew up with no father in the house. Although it is true that more than 70 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock, it's a negative stereotype that most black fathers are absent from their homes.
Crone's coworkers were right to be concerned about the letter. They made copies that they shared with one another and also notified higher-ups. At a news conference Tuesday, Ross called the language "troubling."
Internal Affairs has launched an investigation.
Meanwhile, all of this makes me wonder about the letter's author and why he felt it was OK to spout that kind of nonsense because he was upset about the contents of a trash can.
What does his writing and posting such a racially charged letter say about his judgment? How is it that no warning system ever turned on in his brain telling him: "Hey, this is a really bad idea. Maybe I should delete this"?