The Racial Ridiculousness Inside the Andrew Cuomo Circus

Black Cuomo supporters are trying to paint a parallel between Emmett Till, the Central Park Five, and New York’s governor. No, seriously.

Governor Andrew Cuomo giving a speech.

One of the greatest weapons of systemic racism in America is the allied minds of Black people. In colloquial terms, sometimes it be your own people.

Albany, New York was a lava pit of exemplification last week, when the fight over whether New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should leave office after several accusations of sexual misconduct — the most recent and damning coming from his current aide — turned disrespectful. In an attempt to dissuade the New York State Assembly Judiciary Committee from sanctioning an impeachment against Cuomo, Black supporters within the Democratic Party used analogies that were offensive to their own racial history. It was an unbelievable week.

Monday morning, PoliticsNY published an article bearing the headline “Exclusive: Black Female Ex-Cuomo Employee Questions Sexual Harassment Allegations.” (As if Black women are judge and jury for sexual offenses against women.) The piece centered on two Black women who previously worked with Cuomo: Harlem Assemblywoman Inez Dickens (D–Manhattan) and a second woman who remained anonymous. Both expressed concern that requests for the governor’s resignation or removal by party constituents could taint any investigation. But it was the latter who extended her Black card way past the limit.

The source attempted to place Cuomo’s Italian lineage under the same light as Black and Brown males who were wrongfully accused by White women and consequently punished inhumanely. The mystery woman shot heavy-handed lines like, “The history of White woman allegations is still given number one preference over anything.” In the midst, she — presumably in concert with the writer — compared the “railroad” job being exacted on Cuomo to America’s historic fear and subsequent destruction of Black males.

“Historically, White women’s unsubstantiated claims that Black males were propositioning, whistled at [sic] at or ‘recklessly eyeballing,’ them led to hundreds, if not thousands of Black males being brutally lynched and murdered — most notably 14-year-old Emmett Till,” the article reads. It was disgusting but also telling that the writer had no gauge of the number of Blacks wrongfully killed by American law. More than likely, she doesn’t know that Till wasn’t the youngest kid to die due to false accusations involving White women. Eleven years prior, George Stinney Jr. was also 14 when he was executed by electric chair after being wrongfully charged for the murder of two White girls. Twitter threw so many tomatoes at the article’s pathetic narrative that by lunchtime the piece had been revised to omit the mention of Till.

The following day, Yahoo News published a story revealing some of the highlights from a phone call between Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Democratic leaders in Albany. The conference was verbally pugilistic; the opinions were long-winded and unequivocal. The party division was clear. Many argued that Heastie’s decision to launch a behavior probe instead of an official impeachment was merely the assembly buying Cuomo time. More than one caller punctuated the assumption by noting that, historically, judiciary committee misconduct investigations reap little fruit (“They have no teeth,” one person said). It was a fair point, seeing as Heastie has represented District 83 for two decades now, making him a company man.

Analogizing American judicial crimes against boys who had their lives and bodies violated because of the color of their skin to a disgraced governor is not only lazy but disrespectful to African American suffering.

The arguments by Cuomo’s supporters weren’t rooted in any perceived innocence on the governor’s behalf (nor were any of the governor’s statements, for that matter). The consistent pushback was that no man or party’s opinion should supersede due process. Nonetheless, a few Black Democrats took that point too far. Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte chose to mention the Central Park Five while making a case that the allegations should be investigated before the governor. Assemblyman Al Taylor ran even further with the comparison, not only mentioning the CP5, but Till as well. (Perhaps his words inspired the anonymous PoliticsNY source.)

Analogizing American judicial crimes against boys whose lives and bodies were violated because of the color of their skin to a disgraced governor is not only lazy but disrespectful to African American suffering. Worse, it uses the tongues of victims to echo history’s tone-deaf White liberals. As of March 19, seven women have accused the 63-year-old Queens-born governor of inappropriate behavior in the workplace, ranging from sexual innuendos to groping breasts. Two grown men abducted a 14-year-old Till while he visited relatives in Mississippi because a White woman had falsely accused him of whistled at her. The men tortured, mutilated, and shot Till in the head. The Cuomo circus just may have caused Till to stir once again in his grave.

The Exonerated Five is a terrible analogy for several reasons. The governor is not a poor, underaged, and ill-educated minority living in New York state. Current Cuomo detractors claim that, in spite of his poor reputation as a human, he’s being shielded by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. In 1989, those Harlem kids had little to no systemic representation or protection. They were innocent. Yet, it didn’t save them from being preyed upon, conspired against, and robbed of their childhood. Korey Wise was 19 years old and stood five feet, five inches when he was first sent upstate to Attica. Cuomo was fingered by women with able body and memory. The Central Park jogger never accused the five teenagers of sexual assault. The cognitive damage she suffered from her brutal attack left her unable to identify her attacker and liberate the wrongfully accused. The five teens were prosecuted and sacrificed by White society. It was a crime against race, class, and democracy for political gain. Manipulating parallels between one of New York City’s most public, multi-body lynchings and accusations against the governor’s character is a crime against race and class for political gain.

Most of the Democrats on the assembly call vying for Cuomo’s resignation weren’t fueled by personal animus toward the state’s leader. A few were in concert when expressing their frustration with how much Cuomo’s alleged sexual misconduct distracted from, in their opinion, his greatest transgression as holder of office. In January, the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James released a mammoth report accusing Cuomo’s administration of ordering senior citizen residencies to accept Covid-19 patients and then undercounting the number of virus-related deaths in those same residences.

The conference call concluded with Heastie declining to launch an official impeachment against Cuomo and instead greenlighting an “impeachment investigation.” Once again, James is tasked with getting to the governor’s truth or unearthing more of his skeletons. Following up the punch that was the Covid-19 exposure with a confirmation that the governor did in fact violate his accusers would certainly serve as a knockout blow to Cuomo’s administration.

When a deployed king slayer is touted as the most fit replacement for the throne, blood spill is inevitable. But if Cuomo’s head is severed from his shoulders and placed on the mantle of a Black woman, how will those on his side ever again cry railroaded Brown man?

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.

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