Tuesday, December 14, 2010

White Male Manifest Destiny Woes

I read the following column, written by Adrian Walker, this morning in the Boston Globe. I believe it epitomizes the fragile and deeply entrenched white male supremacy ego we see manifested in the alternative universe called FOX News World. A world that, outside of the sport's field, white males feel a certain inherent entitlement to be the top dog. And, anytime they are not the top dog it's because of Affirmative Action or some other nefarious action. In this universe, non-white male leadership or achievement has to be de-legitimized at all cost because it represents an antithesis to the manifest destiny (click manifest destiny link for full definition) narrative. Read on:

Frank G. Cousins Jr. freely admits that he has a hard time talking about the entrenched problems involving race and gender in his department.

That isn’t an easy admission for any sheriff. But then again, Cousins might be the only law enforcement boss to file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against a group of his own subordinates. For creating a workplace that was hostile — toward him.

The Essex County sheriff won an important measure of vindication a few days ago, when a Superior Court judge ruled in his favor against two employees Cousins had fired for their role in running an often racist and sexist union website. The ruling, by Judge David A. Lowy, overturned an arbitrators’ ruling that would have reinstated them.

Cousins, a former state representative from Newburyport, was appointed sheriff by Governor William F. Weld in 1996. Some employees quickly showed their displeasure with having a black boss. Problems escalated in 1998, when the Essex County Corrections Officers Association was formed.

A union website became home to often anonymous attacks and slurs against minorities and women in the department, including, frequently, Cousins.

“You hear a lot about the culture of law enforcement,’’ Cousins said yesterday. “The culture here has been very difficult.’’

Black male employees were called pimps; females were accused of winning promotions by sleeping with superiors. One person posted a list of ways to commit suicide, and suggested it would be a good idea for “sell-outs — and Frank.’’

The poster was later identified as Lieutenant Scott Thompson, who was successfully prosecuted for making threats against the sheriff. Thompson left the department. The operative posting: In a passage critical of Cousins’s management, one employee asked if there was anyone who could help the situation. “Yeah, there was someone who can help, but James Earl Ray is dead!’’ Thompson responded, alluding to the man convicted of killing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

That was when Cousins finally became concerned for his own safety. He filed a complaint against the union with the MCAD, which has issued a preliminary finding in his favor. He got a driver. He began watching his back.

“I’ve been around a long time and I have a tough skin, but that was a bad chapter,’’ Cousins said. “What was hard was that you had people who knew who was doing these things and they never came forward.’’

The latest ruling involves Lieutenant Jerry Enos and Sergeant K. Ricky Thompson, who were fired in 2007 over their roles as webmasters for the site. But an arbitrator bought their arguments they were not fired in a timely fashion and were not aware that their actions could cost them their jobs. But the judge roundly rejected that thinking.

“Enos and Thompson’s conduct disrupted the operation of the department, violated multiple rules and regulations of the department, and endangered the safety of their co-workers and those in the custody of the department,’’ Lowy wrote. “Although arbitrator’s decisions are given great deference, they are not sacrosanct.’’

Cousins believes that this ruling, though likely to be appealed, will be a turning point for the department. He said a new union president has brought a more mature and inclusive attitude. He thinks that finally, after 14 years on the job, employees have finally gotten accustomed to the presence of a black boss.

“I’m not na├»ve,’’ Cousins said. “Change is very difficult. I felt when I went there that we would have to work through some of these issues, but I didn’t expect it to rise to the level that it did.’’

Cousins has just easily won another six-year term, and said he is excited about the prospect of working on issues like recidivism and prisoner reentry without the distraction of racial and gender strife.

“There are a lot of good people here,’’ he said. “At this point, everyone just wants to move forward.’’


Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at walker@globe.com.

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.

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