« Executive Branched Out: Guv Holds Up Local Projects To Prove A Point | Main | Looking Ahead: Bart Peterson Unveils Third Plan For Indy's Future »

Stirring The Pot: Pick Up That Broad Brush And Go To Your Corner

IndystarRiShawn Biddle, everyone's favorite Correction In Waiting at the Indy Star, is back.

And it only took him one [now-revised] post to justify his prior state of non-existence at the paper.

"Then there's the embarrassing spectacle that is Monroe Gray, whose tenure as city-county council president is being marked by a lack of decorum during council sessions, the videos of himself on YouTube and responses to allegations of corruption that wouldn't be acceptable to a child who claimed his dog ate the homework. His act, more Zip Coon than honorable statesman, epitomizes the lack of seriousness some Black politicians show in their work; it's just inexcusable...."

Ruth Holladay calls Biddle's prattle "refreshing."

TDW respectfully disagrees.

There's nothing wrong with criticizing elected officials for their policies and their actions -- both in office and sometimes on the personal side of things. This site would not exist otherwise.

However, as the "Bart Lies" crowd found out earlier this year, it is not generally acceptable to drag race into the picture as the underlying basis for said criticism. And it is certainly improper to use historic imagery and comparisons to stir the pot.

And yet, that's precisely what Biddle does in this post.

Worse, he seems to place all of our city's woes squarely on the shoulders of African-American politicians.

There is no discussion of substantive policy or of things that could be changed to make Indianapolis a better place to live. It's just nine paragraphs of Biddle hurling racially charged words into cyberland because the Star, perhaps unwisely, let him have his blog back.

Whatever you may think of the Marion County political stage and those who act upon it, TDW would like to think that we're no longer living in an age where it's necessary -- or allowable -- to invoke race to point out potential flaws in the process or make a public case for change.

Biddle doesn't have much of a reputation for journalistic accuracy, but he took two steps over the line this time, and there's nothing even remotely "refreshing" about that.


The comments posted after Biddle's article seem to support him. I don't know if he really did cross any lines. He is making a point and asking that black politicians step up and be more responsible. They are a minority in population and in politics, so when an African American gains a position of power or public office, they need to represent themselves well and show the public that they are good leaders. Unfortunately, black leaders must work a little bit harder because of stereotypes that exist in our society.
I think it is something that Biddle is allowed to bring up because he is black himself, and I do not see this as a racial attack. It is a valid point that he makes and it is one that he does well without making his article seem like a racial attack

i've been following this over at my blog (click my name). i've managed to turn up a couple earlier drafts of this post, though it's probably too late to find the original version.

rishawn has revised this post more than once. i found a previous draft which had the title "Didn't coonery end with slavery?" apparently he thought better of that and changed the title: this was when he added the bit calling monroe gray "zip coon". which he has now removed.

I thought editorial piece was quite on the mark. Democrats have a lot of explaining to do, and the perception of the local Democrat leaders, is that they are here to serve themelves, which is apparant with husband/wives being appointed to city positions, lucrative contracts going to husband/wives (and sometimes, most unapropriately to the Councilor himself!), a charge of battery against a police officer. The subjects of the kingdom are fed up with the "Rulers" we voted in. I do not excuse the GOP either, they were doing the same thing before they were thrown out of office as well, when you get so comfortable in your political leadership positio that you forget that your serving the citizens, it's time for you to go. I expect a big shock come the 6th. That is if the polls are open everwhere.....

Of course, RiShawn is black.


My apologies for not catching your post earlier; I've added a link to it in my post.

As for your poorly constructed argument, 2:54, you don't mention race in it once. That was the point of my post. If you want to talk about elected officials and their actions, so be it, but why bring race into it?

"Of course, RiShawn is black."



Well, it's a social criticism of some black politicians. And I think that's fair.

It's OK for Bill Cosby to stand up and criticize black men for how they behave, even though there are white men who do the same.

It's OK for Jason Whitlock to write about how bad black culture is in sports, even though there are white players who are just as brash and criminal.

So why isn't it OK for RiShawn to say, "Look, if we want to change the perception of the black community, let's start at the top with our prominent politicians."

If RiShawn were white and he called Monroe Gray "Zip Coon", you'd have a point. But a black man opining on black culture is perfectly acceptable.

Agree with 2:57

2:57pm. When Bill Cosby makes valid criticisms about the Black community he does so without use of racial epithets, including the N-word and the c-word. The same with Jason Whitlock. The issue with RiShawn is his use of the perjorative c-word. That word is not used in Black culture. Blacks do not call each other by that heinouse name. That c-word is a perjorative used by white oppressors, before the lynching, during the Klan night riding, during the beatings and degredations.
His editors obviously name the right decision to pull that language, while retaining the meaning of RiShawn's blast. But, RiShawn's use of a word, one of the most dehumanizing epithets used against Black people, a word Blacks don't use against other Blacks, demonstrates how out of touch RiShawn is among his own race.

If anyone, black or white, called me a coon or any other insulting term to my face I would face stomp him. One black person insulting another in such a manner does not make it acceptable. The difference with Bill Cosby and Jason Whitlock is that they do not have to throw around dehumanizing terms to get a point across.

Sorry to disagree folks, but the fact that you seem to think that it's ok for black folk only to criticize black folk and likewise for whites, hispanics, etc. is precisely what's wrong with this country. And, regardless, there is no longer any place for the racial epithets that so colored previous generation's speech and writing. It's way past time to take race out of the picture entirely and focus on ALL our behaviours, ethics, policies, social responsibility, etc. That is, unless, Martin Luther King died for nothing!!!

please correct me if i'm wrong (seriously) but isn't this a case of a black man stating that a white man is behaving in a manner more like the stereotypical figure rather than that becoming the offie to which he was elected?

the reason i brink this up because i am interested in learning the facts about gray's race once and for all. while i know gray associates himself with a certain subset of the black community, is he racially black/african american?

i know sometimes things are not what they appear but this is really confusing and there does not seem to be any bona fide biographical information on him that i can find.

it is my understanding that he was raised by a black family in new orleans. i have no clue what the circumstances were.

i have spoken with him face to face. i have sat across the table from him at meetings. he appears to be caucasian.

AMEN! 4:28 AMEN!

So where were you people when City-Council Attorney Aaron Haith called me "the grandson of Willie Lynch"?

Am I wrong that I find Abdul's use of the term "you people" offensive?

Sorry, Abdul, I've never heard that Mr. Haith called you that. What would you like me to do about it now?

It makes no difference whatsoever about Monroe Gray what his DNA may disclose or what shade his skin may be. He is considered African-American by himself, his family and the community.

Although I'm 100% Scots-Irish myself, I've noticed in the summer my tanned skin is darker than Julia Carson's -- that certainly doesn't make her Caucasian!

Thanks Wilson. Even though it is your own Wilsonian way, you actually provided a useful answer.

Monroe Gray is a white man.

You can't declare yourself of a specific racial or ethnic group, just ask the EEOC. If I adoped a black or asian child, it does not make them white.

You also raise a good point -- what is his community? I'm in his district. Am I in his community?

I can get that he has been adopted by and closely associates with some african americans but it does not make him one.

I didn't even know Monroe Gray was African-American until I read it on these blogs. I'm not even sure why race matters, really, in this discussion.

He's corrupt. Period. His race is absolutely immaterial to that.


abdul: you're right; that was offensive too. but there's a real difference in scale between a spontaneous one-sentence outburst and a premeditated nine-paragraph screed (which is still full of offensive language despite the fact that rishawn--or someone--has now revised it four times).

"Coon" is an extremely odious and antiquated word applied only to Blacks. It's so awful rappers don't use it! If Monroe Gray were white, why would RiShawn Biddle be lumping him amongst other elected Black leaders he so decries? He did not call Bart Peterson or Mike O'Connor "coons", only the African-American President of the City Council. Disgusting in 1907 - still disgusting in 2007 !!!

Forgive me for being redundant, but as I stated earlier who gives a damn what color he is? For God's sake people come into the 21st century and let's discuss his politics or his ideas or whether or not he's a good councilman; but let's let go of race and religion - it's time to move on.

Well, Wilson, for one thing:

RiShawn didn't discuss Bart or Mike because they haven't:

1. Opened a concrete construction company with no experience in the field. Almost solely to capitalize on his newfound leadership "skills" with public contracts.

2. Defaulted on equipment loans for No. 1.

3. Had their city wages garnished for default judgments on No. 1.

4. Held a high-paid IFD job, with apparently no proper job description, time sheets or accountability.

5. Parked his city-owned car in front of a peashake house, with the Center Township Trustee, and later claimed he didn't know it was a peashake house. Which is ludicrous.

6. "Invested" in a bar whose permits were shamelessly out of order, whose zoning variances were ignorantly shoved through the zoning process by a colleague's wife, and all that "investment" came from folks who are supposedly broke.

7. Conducted City Council meetings like thugs.

Do I need to go on? He is a disgrace, and this needs to be said: if a Republican behaved this way, Wilson and the Center crowd would be aghast and scremaing from the highest rooftop. Rightfully.

RiShawn is not always the most diplomatic. I admire his pluck. He needs to be careful, and I sense he's pushing all the envelopes at your former employer, Jen. Which someone needs to do regularly.

In our society, for reasons I don't entirely understand, where race is discussed, certain folks get more of a "pass" than others. It is one reason, for example, that Supt. Eugene White is able to demand that young black males drop their thuggish behavior, notch up their drawers and behave more like gentlemen. Anyone else saying it, well, you know the response.

RiShawn, and Abdul, bring a special perspective to this argument. I have observed that the council's leaderhsip is adrift, and has been for three or more years. The race of the presidents is less important to me than the results.

But is is mighty strange that the more-qualified leaders on that council cannot get the presidency, because the caucus, as a group, demands that a black be president.

That's the playing field on which we're all commenting. Hopefully, soon, we can talk about council leadership based on qualifications. Which we haven't done for 3 or more years.

The point I was making is that RiShawn is a black man criticizing black politicians (not just Monroe Gray) for fulfulling stereotypes many still hold of the black community at large.

It's fair to say, "Look, you guys are perpetuating stereotypes that we've all talked about eliminating." As a white man, I can't make that argument credibly. Just like I can't make an argument that my wife needs to relax because she's perpetuating PMS stereotypes.

See, I've never had PMS, so I should shut up.

Should he have used the word Coon? He probably could have written the entry without it. But would vanilla wording have captured the attention of the audience as much? No. He's addressing a serious topic, so he felt the need to use serious language, and I'm fine with that.

Does the "serious topic" he's addressing have anything to do with race?

"The difference with Bill Cosby and Jason Whitlock is that they do not have to throw around dehumanizing terms to get a point across."

And by the way, Whitlock is famous for saying black athletes and announcers are "Bojangling". That's a term from Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Shirley Temple's black butler, who was Hollywood's archetypical black stereotype in the 1930s and 40s.

Awfully similar to Zip Coon.

Hey Abdul, just curious...do you actually vote in Marion County? I noticed when you were at my neighborhood meeting that you still have Illinois plates, despite having been here in Indy for what, three years? So are you registered here, or in Illinois? If you vote here, shouldn't you have your vehicle licensed in Indiana (I think there may be a law about that)? And if it's in Illinois, why should we care what you think about Marion Co. politics?

And we are surprised by the lack of restraint from Rishawn because.....

Same as it ever was.

It is amazing to read on this blog and many oithers that whites (and Abdul) are tolerating the use of one of the most perjorative racial slur words in the book. "coon" is that word. If this blog or others were bandying about the six letter "n-word" you all would be outraged. Yet, RiShawn Biddle, a mainstream journalist writing in a mainstream blog, uses one of the most hateful words in the language and Ruth Halladay considers it "refreshing". Biddle's utterance is on the same level as Don Imus and just as hateful. While it is true and distasteful that Blacks use racial and sexual slurs talking about others Blacks (a trend that is being opposed by more and more people in the Black community), the racial c-word is a term that Blacks don't use with each other. The negative connotation is too raw, too real.
Yet, the intelligent people commenting on this blog dismiss Biddle's use of the word because it fits into their political agenda of condemning any action by Black Democrats and praising any action by Black Republicans.
Bull Connor, Herman Talmadge, Lester Faubus and the early George Wallace would be proud of you.

Curious to know what TDW thinks of Wilson46201's race baiting habits.

Once again, an anonymous nobody tries to distract away from the thread onto an unwarranted personal attack on a commenter here...

Having worked for Julia Carson for years, it's highly unlikely she would have tolerated any "race baiting habits" from me.

Sometimes Wilson, it's all they've got.

I've not read the context for this thread, however, I was in a store last week and overheard a young (11-13 y.o.) boy who was admonishing another boy who had dropped an item on the floor and was going to leave it. I heard him say, "Don't just leave it...pick it up. That's why white people don't like us so you'd better pick that up". I felt so sad. I'm not sure why but I felt compelled to intervene and said, "oh that's not true..." and thought how clumsy my words must have seemed. The boys moved on to another aisle and I couldn't stop thinking how awful is the legacy of slavery. I thought of what I really wanted to say that would have gone right over their young heads because it would be complex, convoluted and filled with metaphors. What I really wished I could have conveyed is to let them know that I wished they had not ever experienced racial dispariety...that I am so sorry that America ever, ever was guilty of thinking it was okay to own people...to judge others and to do it in the context of a bastardized version of the one religion that preaches "judge not lest we be judged".

I thought of the statistics about young black men and how their life expectancy is less than their white counterparts...of the uneven drop-out rates...of the violence that exists in the black community that seems a symptom of self-hatred.

I am sad that this beautiful young child felt that in order to be okay, he had to please a whole segment of society that seemed to be the standard. I thought of Bush and Cheney and their lies, of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling...of Scooter Libby, our own Brian Bosma, Ann Coulter and other hypocrits and I felt sickened.

Jen, I don't want this whole debacle about Monroe to be about race, but in part, it will be considered as such regardless of how we try to make it not so.

I can't stand Rishawn Biddle's blog. He was aguest on Abdul's show several months ago and was railing about Balck on black crime the day after he posted a blog/column endorsing the PEA SHAKE houses. I questioned his integrity on the air and he became unglued. He's a real Pants-Load.

Do you all have any real reason for saying "coon" is "too raw, too real" for African Americans to call each other that? Or is this just a convenient argument since that word has not entered the lexicon?

I have heard African-Americans use the term "cooning" to describe when other African-Americans are playing into stereotypes. It is indeed a huge insult.

Maybe because I know more about this government than 90% of the people who've been here all their lives. And I've also noticed the smartest people in Indiana tend to be the ones who left for a while and came back. Take a hint!

And I've noticed that the most smug, arrogant people, totally lacking in humility, are from somewhere else, tryin' to ed-u-kate us dumb, hick Hoosiers.
But I won't say that, because it would be a gross generalization.
Take a hint, indeed.

Perhaps when talking to Mr. Abdul, one may assume he is as aware as he claims to be, especially by his latest post. However, if he does not understand the context of the "grandson of Willie Lynch" comment HE OVERHEARD, he may begin with the following article. http://www.freemaninstitute.com/lynch.htm

So are you saying being called the grandson of Willie Lynch is a good thing?

Or are you saying it's OK because Abdul was never have supposed to heard the comment?

What on earth is a "pea shake" house? Sorry to have been out of the loop....

The real issue is "what is happening behind the scene at the Star?". Is this the real thought as it relates to black leadership at the Council.

Every employee knows how far he/she can step before being outside of the "norm setting" of their place of employment. Was this "language" and "attitude" the norm within the Star editorial board or department as it related to "Monroe Gray"?

It seems to me for RaShawn to feel comfortable to even use this "tone" and in between the lines imagery makes me believe that this "thought process" of Monroe Gray, and black political leadership, was being thrown around in the Star newsroom or editorial board room or department more often then not.

How is that the Star editor for blogs did not catch this before it was sent? After all, when you send a letter to the editor, you are informed that there will be a delay in publishing, until the editor had a chance to review it for content, language, etc.

Perhaps the second issue need examined by the community is how the Star set in motion the setting for this tone and attitude with is its political comments and Tully stories on Monroe Gray? It was more then political reporting. At one point, one could expect a story at least once a week.
This is not the first time the Star "imagery" as to black leadership been attacked. And, it will not be the last time.
When the former County Republican Chairperson committed his "offense" of leaving the scene of an accident, there was simply the "reporting" of fact.. "just the fact". Nothing about why he was there, with whom if any, leaving the scene is a crime, shame on him for failure to take personal reponsibility.

Finally, while it was good PR for Dennis Ryerson to appear at the rally, and then state in this morning paper that RaShawn is no longer employed with the Star, it appears to me either they were waiting for a chance to release him, he fell on his sward or it was to appease everyone and say " see, we are sensative newspaper".

I would hope they do a careful inspection within the Star, it newsroom and editorial department and ask if and how they set this tone within the Star. It just did not happen.

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Find Stuff


Buy Stuff