Jamar Clark's Death Still Pains Minneapolis — So Naturally, Someone Wrote a Racist Op-Ed

Jamar Clark's Death Still Pains Minneapolis — So Naturally, Someone Wrote a Racist Op-Ed

It's been just over a week since the US Department of Justice announced it would not file charges against the two Minneapolis police officers who shot and killed Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man, in November.

So naturally, someone decided it was time to write a racist op-ed about the shooting. "Lately, some advocacy groups have been asking what we can do to 'reduce the use of force by police,'" writes Minnesota Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) in the Star Tribune June 7. He then listed six pieces of "advice" so wrought with racial dog whistles that he might as well have said, "Don't be black" and called it a day.

The items on the list included:

"Don't be a thug and lead a life of crime so that you come into frequent contact with police."

"Don't hang out on the street after 2 a.m. Go home."

"Don't make furtive movements or keep your hands in your pockets if told to take them out."

"Don't flap your jaws when the police arrive."

The implication is that all these are legitimate reasons for police to use force against an individual, and that a person's criminal history is grounds to kill them. 

Cornish's use of the term "thug" — a racist dog-whistle that enforces the stereotype of black people as criminals — is especially loaded in the context of Jamar Clark and what he's meant to black Minneapolis over the past seven months.

In the early hours of November 15, Clark, 24, was at a party with a friend, RayAnn Hayes, where an altercation resulted in her being taken away by ambulance. When Clark tried talking to her as paramedics were loading her into the vehicle, two Minneapolis police officers — Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze — detained and shot him. Some witnesses claimed Clark was handcuffed when he was killed. 

Protesters converged on the 4th MPD precinct in north Minneapolis shortly after the shooting and set up a campsite that remained for weeks. Police officers wearing riot helmets drove bulldozers through the site and kicked the protesters off the property Dec. 3

"I think for a lot of people, Minnesota showed its true racist colors that night," Kandace Montgomery, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, said of Jamar Clark's death in a phone interview in December.

The absence of criminal charges for Clark's killers brings to mind several other cases in which police officers went unpunished for killing unarmed black men like Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, among many others.

Considering this pattern, that an elected official in Minnesota feels it's okay to dismiss Jamar Clark as a "thug" who deserved to die plows the depths of cruelty and racial insensitivity.

"I'm disgusted that one of our state legislators would feel comfortable writing a racially-charged op-ed that reinforces negative stereotypes about African-Americans," Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, told the Star Tribune.

Correction: June 10, 2016

A previous version of this story misidentified RayAnn Hayes as Jamar Clark's girlfriend. She has described herself as a "close friend." Additionally,  a previous version of this story stated Jamar Clark got in an altercation with RayAnn Hayes the night he was shot. Hayes initially identified Clark as her assailant to paramedics, but later changed her statement to police and said he was not.