We condemn the Quad-City Times article published on February 16th regarding Thurgood Brooks. The characterization of Thurgood is built entirely on a one-sided portrayal, one that is rooted in anti-Blackness. This publication uncritically printed accounts from various officials and executives who described Thurgood as “unprofessional” (Rock Island Interim City Manager John Gripp), “threatening” (Alderperson Mark Poulos), and “confrontational” (Natalie Linville-Mass). These characterizations are nothing but coded racism. Let’s look at the incidents themselves and their context.
John Gripp’s comments in the article center on an incident “following a contentious, two-hour long city council meeting Monday night.” All of his comments amount to naught but hand-wringing. “It’s unfortunate anyone was in this situation; it’s really unprofessional.” Yes, it turns out that public service and governance is not an easy job and that people are justifiably upset when decisions made impact them negatively. Furthermore, expecting professionalism (a conveniently nebulous construct) all the time is a profound distraction from the actual matters at hand.
Mark Poulos engages in clumsy sophistry as he tries to reframe Brooks’ statements during the public comment portion of the city council meeting as threats. Brooks stated that he would fight against the re-election of any council members who supported the Black history trail grant as initially proposed. This is a function of democracy and reconceptualizing so basic a lever as this into a threat, communicates a virulent opposition to that very same democracy. Mark Poulos has simply projected his fear onto Brooks and nothing, unfortunately, is as American as projecting white fear onto Black people.
Natalie Linville-Mass pins her characterization of Brooks upon some calls and emails that were never returned. Linville-Mass considered their first meeting a productive one but it would appear that, by the time of the city council meeting, Brooks did not agree. While disagreement can be uncomfortable it ought not be weaponized. There is no way in which white people are comfortable with Black people’s disagreement so all of such disagreements are framed as “confrontational” or “angry.” And this leaves aside the very real and present reasons Black people have to be confrontation and angry in this country.
These depictions of Black people feed into narratives of criminalization and fear which, in turn, rob Black people of their humanity. If we do not oppose these portrayals, then we perpetuate this dehumanization and that is both unacceptable and unforgivable.
To reiterate, we specifically call out the Quad-City Times for uncritically printing these statements. This is the outright character assassination of a prominent, Black man in the Quad Cities. Furthermore, it is not lost on us that this rhetoric is now being deployed as Thurgood Brooks runs for State Representative. And this is not the first time they have engaged in shoddy journalism, brimming with racist dog whistles. We need look no further than the coverage of the trial of Latrice Lacey which demonized her and implied that she was complicit in the harm done to her. From here, we’d like to call in the Quad-City Times. Your staff is capable of much better and you need to recognize that; we demand that you hold yourselves accountable to treating all of our community with fairness. While difficult, this is not unachievable and it’s not as though your profession is known for ease.
Executive Committee of the Quad Cities Democratic Socialists of America