I’m not much of a connoisseur of rap music, but this video struck home with me.
It’s not that I endorse the line about a cop having to die. Obviously, I don’t and have made the point more times than I care to remember that no one should die. All lives matter. I feel no compulsion to prove myself now. I’ve always been clear about being against violence for everyone.
Yet, this video has sucked Bronx Defenders into a controversy for just that reason.
Two men appear, holding a gun to the head of a man dressed in a New York Police Department uniform. And as rappers sing about killing police officers in response to Mr. Garner’s death, two other men, portrayed as defense lawyers, are shown working on a case.
The men were not actors. They were lawyers from a city-funded nonprofit, the Bronx Defenders, and they had agreed to be part of the video.
This is just the sort of stupid mess that an organization like Bronx Defenders doesn’t need. Not because there is any basis to believe that they in any way endorse harm to police officers, but because it will subject the organization to attack and controversy, putting its funding at risk as well as distracting it from the critical job it performs.
On Thursday, New York City investigators sharply criticized the two public defenders for participating, concluding that they knew beforehand that the lyrics endorsed deadly retribution for the death of Mr. Garner, in July after a confrontation with police officers.
The city’s Department of Investigation also determined that the founder and executive director of the Bronx Defenders, Robin Steinberg, approved the organization’s involvement without reviewing the lyrics and later misled city officials about her role. The city has demanded that the Bronx Defenders, known for its aggressive defense of low-income and minority clients and receives about $20 million a year in city funds, take disciplinary action against the two lawyers by Feb. 4.
This is, how can I say this kindly, complete bullshit. Robin Steinberg has her plate full with the zillion indigent defendants her group handles, in one of the toughest courthouses anywhere in the world. Robin is not only a brilliant lawyer, but one of the smartest people I know.
She never would have allowed this had she known the entirety of the project, not because of the ridiculous notion that it suggested she or her organization endorsed killing cops (the idea is so utterly absurd as to be laughable), but because she knows better than to get embroiled in time-wasting controversy.
In a statement, the Bronx Defenders said its employees never saw the video before it was posted online or approved the images that were used. “The Bronx Defenders abhors the use of violence against the police under any circumstance,” the statement reads.
And to anyone who has any knowledge of how stuff works, the idea that two Bronx Defender lawyers played any more than a bit part in this video, and were either told or shown its entirety as if the rappers wanted their approval, is almost as silly as suggesting Bronx Defenders endorses cop killing.
Indeed, this is music, and very powerful music. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that anyone associated with this video actually endorses anything of the sort. Rather, it seeks to make a political point about the killing of young black men. You may not like the way they make it, but it’s a point that needs making.
That police and low-self-esteem politicians and their appointees will decry that tiny part of the message while ignore the rest of it comes as no surprise. But leave Robin Steinberg and Bronx Defenders out of it.