Recognizing elitism

May 02, 2006|By JOSEPH FARRELL

Subpoenas are being issued in the infamous transgression between Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, Democrat of Georgia, and Capitol Police Officer Paul McKenna in which the officer tried to stop the congresswoman from going through a House office building metal detector because she wasn't wearing her identification pin.

He allegedly grabbed her by the arm, and Ms. McKinney allegedly then struck Officer McKenna with her cell phone.

The point of all of this is that the Capitol Police are not in place to recognize members of Congress but to recognize trouble and act on it for the purpose of maintaining security.

In the days after the incident, Ms. McKinney claimed that she was racially profiled, that the Capitol Police Force is a racist organization and that Officer McKenna touched her inappropriately. Subpoenas have been issued to House aides by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to have them testify in a grand jury investigation of the incident.

Of course, we now know that this was all a ploy to try to get enough public support behind her cause to keep her unlawful behavior unpunished. Her apology after a week of media attention was a hollow attempt to save face and stay out of jail. She has a lot more apologizing to do because of her astoundingly distasteful use of the term "racism" in order to cover her misconduct.

Racism is a process of making divisions among people based on the color of their skin and their ethnicity, in terms of the rights and privileges they deserve. Racism has taken many forms in this country. Its most prevalent example is against African-Americans. It begins with the fact that many of the African-Americans we know today are descendants of slaves.

But even after the abolition of slavery, African-Americans have been forced to attend segregated schools, use the rear seats of buses and use separate bathrooms and water fountains, they were denied voting privileges, denied the opportunity to compete fairly for housing and jobs; the list just keeps going.

Elitism, more generally, is any process of making divisions among people, in terms of the rights and privileges they deserve. Racism is a subcategory of elitism. But, as Americans, no version of elitism is supposed to affect the law because of equality before the law.

Ms. McKinney knows that she has power. She expects everyone to recognize who she is, the great "female, black, progressive congresswoman" from Georgia. As such, she must see herself as too important to obey the law, much less abide by security regulations.

Rather than thank Officer McKenna for providing her and the other members of Congress with security so good that even a member of Congress is not above reproach, Ms. McKinney allegedly struck him.

Ms. McKinney is an elitist. She expects to be treated differently according to the law because she is a member of Congress. Officer McKenna recognized trouble and he acted on it. Unfortunately, so has Ms. McKinney, but in a deplorable way.

She should be tried on charges she assaulted a police officer, and if convicted, she should go to jail. She attempted to divert attention from her alleged crime and present herself as the victim. She accused the Capital Police of racism.

She used a false accusation of racism to hide an apparently criminal act and the fact that she is an elitist who not only expects but demands different treatment from the rest of us. The Capitol Police, and particularly Officer McKenna, are victims of her elitism by having their integrity besmirched.

The biggest victims of her actions, however, are all true victims of racism, people without the power to face up to insurmountable odds, and certainly not by using their race as the means to do so. Ms. McKinney recognized trouble, acted on it and, in the process, made a mockery of the entire African-American struggle against racism. One hopes her constituents of all colors will remember that when she is up for re-election.

Joseph Farrell is a lecturer in the department of philosophy and religious studies at Morgan State University. His e-mail is

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