published Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Cook: Race matters

I don't think we need to be afraid of talking about it. Not in this case, at least.

Blackness. Whiteness.

And how sometimes, we should be colorblind. And other times, race matters most.

This spring, Hamilton County commissioners will appoint a new judge to replace retiring Juvenile Court Judge Suzanne Bailey.

That person should be Curtis Bowe.

He is incredibly, vastly, perfectly qualified.

He's also black.

And so are way too many of the kids coming through our juvenile justice system.

For many of them, Bowe could be the first black man they encounter in a position of power. A role model. Someone with authority, respect and control.

Someone who looks just like them.

For years, Bowe has served as a Juvenile Court referee, which is like a junior varsity judge. He's also an attorney, practicing law for nearly 20 years.

Folks say he's wise. Convicted. Compassionate. He has come close to tears over the fate of his clients.

His appointment also could break a rather unsettling tradition of pervasive whiteness: never, ever, not once has the Hamilton County Commission ever appointed a black judge.

And never have county voters elected a minority judge, either.

In numbers completely disproportionate to the population, black kids accounted for more than half of every Juvenile Court case that was completed in 2011.

When dealing with such fragile and wrecked lives, anything and everything can help. Like the safety a 14-year-old first-time offender can feel upon seeing that the man before him -- who possesses godlike control over his fate -- has the same skin color.

And in a world where racism -- perceived or not -- is a factor, this safety can be the tip-top factor that nudges the kid into choosing the right road.

Yet here's the kicker, the place where it gets a little messy: This street doesn't always run in both directions.

In other words, if the majority of kids in juvenile justice system were white, the judge's race would not be a factor to consider.

Why? Because whiteness is the majority. White kids have no trouble finding -- within seconds -- someone that looks like them, understands them and won't double-think or burden them with token-ship because of skin color. This is the luxury of the majority.

Others have called it "an invisible knapsack." Like an invisible passport that people in the majority carry around that oftentimes they're -- we're -- unaware of.

My skin color doesn't work against me. I'm never asked to represent all of white Chattanooga. When I shop, I'm not followed. And so on.

I didn't speak to Bowe about this column. He may hate it. So don't hold it against him.

But, county commissioners, don't run from the fact that race plays a huge role in the juvenile justice system, and therefore ought to be considered.

Or at least talked about.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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joetheplumber said...

I disagree

February 22, 2013 at 2:13 a.m.
jjmez said...

And other times, race matters most.Someone who looks just like them

I must agree with joetheplumber. Sorry, Mr. Cook. But the fact is, sadly far too often blacks in powerful positions such as judge, police officer, educator are far more harsh on their own than whites and others. Appointing fellow black slavedrivers and overseers on the plantation didn't necessarily make life easier for fellow slaves. In fact, conditions for them often became even more brutal and harsh. Many blacks in powerful positions such as I mentioned oftentimes feel they have to prove something to others. That is, they won't go lite on their own or show sympathy just because they're of the same ethnicity. Thomas, Hannity, Williams are fine examples of black on black hate, or black on black racism.

Remember, although many later changed their minds, the crack/cocaine laws that only served to incarcerate basically entire generations of blacks, and contributing to that generational curse, were originally favored and even demanded by blacks. Many black lawmakers and others actually begged for harsher sentencings for fellow blacks. Just like the saggy pants laws are being pushed primarily by blacks. In fact, the now infamous RICO law pushed in TN, I believe was originally thought up by a local black law officer trying to make a name for him/herself. That law, like the crack cocaine law, too will come back to haunt the black community too at some later date.

February 22, 2013 at 8:49 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

I can't believe the comments by joetheplumber and jjmez, is this 2013 or 1813? Both reek of a subliminal racism.

February 23, 2013 at 6:51 a.m.
jjmez said...

It's never racist to speak the truth, inq'mind. There's no real proof a black in authority, in this case a judge, will be anymore fair than an opened minded white, asian, latino etc. judge. The fact is there's a level of social and class racism within the black community that helps to keep the people at a standstill is no secret.

While other groups who've suffered oppression and discrimination do what they can to protect their young, all too often it seems the black community offer their young up as human sacrifice.

Take a Colorado Latino community that drew up rules for police to follow that they dare not cross if they're placed in their schools since there are plans to place armed guards and police in schools all across America. Those Latinos got together because they saw the damage that school to prison pipeline was causing for other minority groups, such as blacks. So they came together and stepped up to do something about it before it could destroy their young, their future.

February 23, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
timbo said...

Subliminal racism? What that lightweight Cook was talking about is actual racism. He was supporting racism in an absolutely un-democratic fashion. This notion of somehow white people having a "passport" is Hogwash.

When I was in Soddy Daisy High I can remember some of Mr. Cook's private school friends who constantly made fun of us About who we were . This wasn't racial, it was cultural. Mr. Cook and his liberal friends need cleanup their own act before preaching to the rest of us. His vision of white guilt or what we owe somebody else really doesn't matter to me at all. By perpetuating these myths, he is just making things worse.

Isn't that the mission of racial pimps like Cook or Jesse Jackson, or Al Sharpton, etc. etc.?

February 23, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.
timbo said...

I hope the Times Free Press doesn't pay this guy. David Cook is absolutely the worst columnist I've ever read.

February 23, 2013 at 11:40 a.m.
Easy123 said...


And who would care what a moron like you has to say about it? I'm sure Cook expects idiots like yourself to be critical of his writing. If you don't like it, why to you read all of his articles and post in his comments section? Sorry to burst your moron bubble but Cook has a readership and gets paid pretty well to so what he does. Get over it.

February 23, 2013 at 2:36 p.m.
TirnaNOG said...

I have an even better solution. Why not stop hauling youth off to juvenile for every minor infraction, then coming up with new ones? That would be a great start. Do people realize a juvenile record can stigmatize an entire family and generation? Juvenile records maybe sealed to a certain degree, but that doesn't make them inaccessible. A juvenile record can prevent a juvenile or family members from obtaining certain jobs at a future date. Especially jobs that require a certain level of seucrity clearance. I've never understood why the black community especially so easily refer their youth to the juvenile system.

See February 18. 2013: How The War On Drugs Became A War On Children

excerpt: "The result: the war on drugs has metastasized into a war on children.

Best publicized, perhaps, is the plight of young people in Meridian, Mississippi, where a federal investigation is probing into why children as young as 10 are routinely taken to jail for wearing the wrong color socks or flatulence in class. Bob Herbert wrote of a situation in Florida in 2007, where police found themselves faced with the great challenge of placing a 6-year-old girl in handcuffs too big for her wrists. The child was being arrested for throwing a tantrum in her kindergarten class; the solution was to cuff her biceps, after which she was dragged to the precinct house for mug shots and charged with a felony and two misdemeanors.

In New York City, kids who make trouble are routinely removed from school altogether and placed in suspension centers, holding cells or juvenile detention lockups. In the old days, you got a detention slip for scrawling your initials on a desk. Now a student can be given a summons by a school police officer. If the kid loses it or doesn’t want to tell his parents, it becomes a warrant—and a basis for arrest."

School zero tolerance policies are destroying America's youth and future adult generations for generations to come.

February 23, 2013 at 4:38 p.m.
timbo said...

slEasy321.... Those were your usual "intelligent" remarks. You answered my question about how Mr. Cook has a column in the Times Free Press. It is because of imbeciles like you And the rest of your liberal co-conspirators. Always using racism and fomenting cultural discord is the stock in trade of the Democrats and liberals. You guys will do anything to get votes. It is no surprise that you support that kind of behavior.

February 24, 2013 at 12:18 p.m.
Easy123 said...


Bask in your ignorance! Let it wash over you!

February 24, 2013 at 4:30 p.m.
jhcain said...

Curtis is no doubt the best candidate. He has so many attributes that he can bring to this position. I hate that folks make it about race. These kids need guidance and someone that honestly cares about them. Curtis is firm and fair. I wish there were more men like him that wanted to spend their lives making a difference.

February 25, 2013 at 11:55 p.m.
joetheplumber said...

inquiringmind, all I said was "I disagree" and you respond that I am a racist? Houston, I think we have a problem here...

February 26, 2013 at 12:42 a.m.
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