Dominion of New York

The 411

April 12, 2012

How Angela Corey Should Have Answered the Question About Race

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Written by: Kelly Virella
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fter weeks of marching and otherwise protesting, supporters of Trayvon Martin’s parents finally got what they wanted yesterday when Martin’s killer George Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second degree murder. Giving her first public statements about the case during yesterday’s press conference, special prosecutor Angela Corey achieved a feat that no other public official connected to the investigation has: she conveyed empathy for Martin’s parents and outrage over the murder. “Just three weeks ago we told those sweet parents that we would get answers to all their questions no matter where our quest for the truth led us,” she said. “And it is the search for justice for Trayvon that has brought us to this moment.” Identifying with victims is a prosecutor’s job and Corey’s willingness and ability to do that on behalf of Trayvon was a crucial step in the process of lowering the racial tension surrounding the case. But at the same that she employed sensitivity that generated goodwill, she also appeared painfully oblivious to the broader struggle of the African-American and Latino communities against racism within law enforcement. Her refusal to acknowledge the racial dimensions of this case was an utterly preposterous and unnecessary move that seriously undermines the goodwill she aimed to create.

When a reporter asked Corey about the racial overtones of the case, Corey said that law enforcement officials were committed to justice for all, regardless of race. “We only know one category as prosecutors, and that’s a ‘V,’ ” Ms. Corey said. “It’s not a ‘B,’ it’s not a ‘W,’ it’s not an ‘H.’ It’s ‘V,’ for victim. That’s who we work tirelessly for. And that’s all we know, is justice for our victims.” And while I laud her for correctly identifying the goal of law enforcement, it’s preposterous to suggest that law enforcement is already achieving it.

In Sanford, Florida — where Martin was killed — the black community has long felt ignored or harassed by police, a history that is extensively documented by the Huffington Post on Monday. Among their grievances: just before Trayvon Martin’s murder, Sanford Police balked at arresting a white man who attacked a homeless black man after yelling , “Nigger what? Nigger what?”

The attacker, Justin Collison, was the son of a Sanford Police Lieutenant. An investigative report shows that the ranking police sergeant overruled a junior officer who wanted to charge Collison with the crime, the Huffington Post reports.

The next day, the sergeant, Anthony Raimondo, defended his decision to other officers at police headquarters.

“If anybody has any issues with what happened last night, talk to me,” Raimondo said, according to the report. “But here’s my standpoint on it. I’m not in the business of putting cops’ kids in jail unless I absolutely have to.”

Collison was only arrested after the video above aired on a local TV station. Raimondo and all officers involved in the incident were cleared of all wrongdoing.

The failure to arrest someone for a vicious racially motivated attack is the epitome of racism. But within law enforcement, racism takes myriad forms in myriad places. In New York, it’s the wrongful arrest of a black diplomat and a black city council member. It’s the fabrication of charges against innocent suspects. It’s the false arrest of 22,000 people — 75 percent of them African-American — over a period of almost 30 years, under laws that courts have ruled unconstitutional. It’s the selective policing of the black community that fills upstate prisons with tens of thousands of black drug users, but overlooks white drug


About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


Official portrait from his tenure as US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.