Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ACLU/NJ: Only Locals Have 'Right'
to Criticize Newark Gay Leaders?

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Deborah Jacobs (above), responded to my post yesterday second-guessing and criticizing statewide and Newark gay leaders for their failure to stage a vigil or public protest over the killing last month of DeFarra Gaymon in that city's Branch Brook Park.

Her full, and very defensive, letter is shared here in bold, along with my comments in italics. The note from Jacobs should serve as a jumping off point, for many discussions on matters from lack of a gay vigil to the feelings of Gaymon's family. Let's go over her opinions:

I don't really care for the [headline of yesterday's post]. Describing Mr. Gaymon as a "dead black NJ cruiser" would certainly hurt and insult his loved ones. I have met with his distraught parents, and this is not the kind of "help" they want. It's also a reminder of the lens of "isms" through which many outsiders seem to view this case.

MP: No insult was meant toward Gaymon's family, and I see no offense in using the language I did to get readers' attention. For the family, I'm sure they also don't welcome the tremendous delving into Gaymon's private life by the New York Times, but we cannot look away from hard questions simply because relatives would be hurt. Jacobs states my post used a lens of "isms" and doesn't further explain what "isms" she thinks I employed in writing the post.

I also think it's interesting that the author feels he has license to criticize local activists' decision-making on this issue. Has he ever been to Newark before? Has he ever taken an interest in our community's problems? Has he ever donated money to support our initiatives? How is he in a better position to decide how to respond to this tragedy than we are?

MP: Yep, that damn First Amendment gives me the license to open my mouth how and when I wish about New Jersey's gay activists. Why would an ACLU executive have a problem with that? Jacobs implies only those who've visited Newark or given money (so typical of a nonprofit leader to tie opinions worthy of consideration to a donation).

For the record, not that it matters one way or another in terms of my free speech rights, but I was born in the city's North Ward, worked and lived part of my life there, have deep family ties to it, used to cruise in Branch Brook Park and was in Newark in July.

Wish I knew why Jacobs seems to be looking for reasons to dismiss an opinion at odds were hers, and the lengths she going to avoid the central theme of my post yesterday: There have been no public protests organized over Gaymon's death and the undercover sting.

This is an extremely complicated case, and there is more at issue and at stake than the author of this blog seems to understand. I don't think anyone who hasn't been on-the-ground in Newark has the right to second guess our local leaders, or use this tragedy to further their own agenda.

MP: Damn, this is frightening. The head of the ACLU of New Jersey is actually saying I don't have the right to questions decisions made by local gay leaders. And what is this nonsense of me using the tragic Gaymon killing to further my agenda, which happens to be trying to prod New Jersey gays to stage a vigil and for attention to be paid to cops targeting gay sex spots? Is that a terrible agenda, for civil libertarian Jacobs?

Speaking of furthering agendas, Jacobs and her organization have done exactly that, requesting the state Attorney General Paula Dow investigate the killing, and I praise the ACLU for doing this and other steps in the case.

If concerned people from outside Newark want to actually help, I can suggest a number of excellent local initiatives that need resources and support. But this kind of attack blog isn't helpful to the case, to the family of Dean Gaymon, to the Newark LGBT community or to race relations. Just my 2 cents.

Why wait six-weeks after the killing, and primarily in response to my blog posting, to make those suggestions? If Jacobs has suggestions for how folks living anywhere can help local initiatives, put the ideas out there already. It's a free web and no one is stopping her from putting out her suggestions.

And this blog will continue to cover the Gaymon case, yes, from San Francisco, and when necessary, will post criticisms and push for public protests.

1 comment:

Clinton Fein said...

Thankfully you appear to have a far better appreciation and understanding of the First Amendment than Deborah Jacobs.

Stating you don't have the "right to second guess our local leaders, or use this tragedy to further their own agenda," is quite possibly the clumsiest statement I have ever seen coming from the ACLU.