I’ve been obsessed by one question lately. And it was brought home to me in stereo just last week when the New York Police Department stripped Sgt. Kizzy Adonis of her badge in connection with Eric Garner’s July 2014 death.
It was just so ridiculous. She had nothing to do with it. Like, literally, she was near the scene — that’s it. She was not part of the murderous group of officers who killed Garner. Yet, she was punished for it. The whole thing screams scapegoat. It also seems to suggest, OK, you dare to question police authority and whether we have the right to kill whoever we like? You want someone punished? OK. Here you go. We’ll show you we can be diversity friendly.
So, I had to ask myself, what’s worse? Being a woman or being black? And for me, how on earth have I survived being both? I’m kidding, sort of, but it’s a valid question. What’s easier to overcome: race or gender?
After some soul searching — and I do mean some soul searching — I think gender is the most difficult thing to overcome today, especially in the workplace. Company leaders, many of who are white and male, like to be around their own. That makes sense. In a sense, we’re all like that. We like to be comfortable, to interact with people we feel some affinity with, who we can relate to. We don’t like to move outside our comfort zones, and it’s common for leaders not to want to share power, especially with anyone they consider an interloper.
Apple’s board of directors certainly seemed to feel that way when it encouraged investors to reject a diversity proposal this week for being “unduly burdensome and not necessary,” despite the fact that it’s 2015 diversity report showed: 69 percent of the company is male, 54 percent is white, and its leadership is 72 percent male and 63 percent white. But that’s a whole other story.
I can show — I have shown — that my color is just that. I’ve bucked every stereotype. I don’t have children by multiple men. I don’t live in the ghetto and never did.
I’m college educated. I speak and write well. I don’t wear provocative clothes or elaborate hairstyles with a mainstay of synthetic hair in bright, unnatural colors. I hate watermelon, and I can’t run very fast.
I could go on, but my point is that the usual stereotypes very obviously don’t fit me. I’m a tax-paying, law-abiding citizen with a job and a family, and I don’t fit into most of the oversexed, loud, negative boxes the world often likes to slot black people into. I can fit into most situations and make people comfortable quite quickly, even if they come armed with a pocket full of bias and preconceived notions.
Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with having children by multiple men, white women — all kinds of women — do it all the time. Nor is there anything wrong with wearing provocative clothes or hair weave. If that’s what you like, and you’re prepared to pay the unspoken costs of doing what you like, good on you.
But being a woman? That’s tougher to get around. I think that prejudice can be even more ingrained than a racial one. If you look at the numbers, it has to be. Black people have only been in this country for a few hundred years. Women have been around since Eve and the apple, and we’ve been getting pooed on almost as long.
Numbers can often sway sentiment around racial questions. But when gender’s on the table, numbers don’t seem as effective. When breasts are involved, things somehow become too subjective, too emotional, too easy to dismiss with an eye roll and a conspiratorial look between members of the old boys club.
Adonis was charged with failure to supervise, which isn’t a criminal charge. But the woman still lost her livelihood, her name has been tarnished, and I’m sure her police pension is smoke too.
Sgt. Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, Adonis’ labor union, told the media “the charge against Adonis was nonsensical.” I agree, since according to the USA Today article I read, she was near the scene “on another task and joined the response after hearing on her radio about developments.”
Essentially, she’s nearby, she has some rank, so she makes the perfect scapegoat. Yet in December 2014, a grand jury chose not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death, and he was there in the thick of things, actively participating.
Obviously, I can’t say with certainty that Adonis’ race or gender played a role in her subsequent punishment. But you’ve gotta admit, it looks really weird. In the immortal words of Carrie Bradshaw, I can’t help but wonder, if she was a man, would this have happened?