Georgia Congresswoman Criticized For Crying Racism
For nearly a week, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., and her lawyers had insisted she had been assaulted and had done nothing wrong during an incident in which she hit a Capitol police officer who tried to stop her from entering a Capitol building. She is Black, and the police officer is White.
But on Thursday, what had been labeled “racial profiling” and “inappropriate touching,” suddenly became a “misunderstanding.”
With a grand jury investigating and little support from House of Representatives colleagues, McKinney reversed course, saying, “I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all and I regret its escalation, and I apologize,” during a brief appearance on the House floor. “There should not have been any physical contact in this incident.”
Her characterization of the event as racism could be raising more controversy than the act itself.
“A better woman would never have trivialized racism to gratify her ego,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts. “And a better nation would be less susceptible to such spasms of stupid. Last week, somebody was beaten because he was Black. Went hungry because he was Black. Died because he was Black.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker also took McKinney to task for crying racism. “Racism is a shadow of its former self, but it lives yet. You can see it in the disproportionate numbers of Black men sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. You can see it in the self-destructive behavior of so many young Black men — the internecine violence, the distorted self-esteem, the worship of thug culture.
“But McKinney’s trumped-up charge of racism merely cheapens the term, so that it’s less effective when it’s needed to discuss genuine discrimination,” Tucker said.
Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University, told The Washington Post: “She has always been a very polarizing figure. For most politicians, this would be a one-day event — you would want to have a photo op with the officer and kiss and make up. But this is going the opposite way.”
The grand jury investigation into whether to seek assault or other charges was continuing. It was unclear what impact McKinney’s apology might have.
Although she had the support of activists and actors Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, the March 29 incident has embarrassed Democrats, including fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, none of whom have publicly defended her behavior.
The night before the apology, members of the Congressional Black Caucus urged McKinney in a private meeting to find a way to put the matter to rest, says a person familiar with the session.
— Associated Press and staff reports
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