New York City's mayor isn't just a self-interested member of the Black political class. He is also singularly incompetent and lacking in the most basic political skills. After a Black man was publicly murdered on the subway, Adams saw no need to go through the motions of expressing appropriate concern. New Yorkers are protesting but the clueless mayor insists that he can only mouth tin eared platitudes that please his most racist constituents.
On May 1, 2023, a Black man named Jordan Neely was murdered on a New York City subway. He was unhoused and struggled with mental illness. When Neely became agitated and pleaded for food or water, a white passenger named Daniel Penny responded by putting him in a chokehold for 15 minutes and killed him. After police arrived they questioned Penny and chose to let him go instead of putting him under arrest. Even though the murder can be seen on video, Penny remains free while the Black district attorney of Manhattan prepares to present the case to a grand jury. Penny will be tried if the grand jury decides to indict him.
The “white person kills a Black person but isn’t arrested” incident is fairly common. This nation is a white settler state after all and being able to kill with impunity is one of the dynamics that defines it. But there is a wrinkle in this story which reveals another feature of how the U.S. operates, and that is with the help of what we at Black Agenda Report call the Black misleadership class. This political class is made up of politicians and others who owe their positions to the white power structure and act as a dutiful comprador buffer class would.
New York City has a Black mayor, Eric Adams. Yet even among his cohort he stands out and in a very bad way. Adams is simply not up to the job of governing the country’s biggest city. He isn’t very bright, shows no leadership skills, and doesn’t have the slightest idea of how to project an image of competence or caring. Before his political career as a State Senator and Brooklyn Borough President he was a police officer. He constantly reminds New Yorkers that he was a cop and even refers to himself as such in the present tense.
Adams has surrounded himself with an equally questionable group of Black cronies. His police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, regularly dismisses disciplinary charges against police officers that are brought by the Civilian Complaint Review Board. She did so more than 400 times in 2022.
Neely’s killing has sparked outrage and demonstrations on his behalf take place almost daily. This moment is one in which a smart politician would make an effort to show empathy and to make clear that mob justice will be punished, even if he didn’t really mean it. Eric Adams has done just the opposite as he said himself in a CNN interview.
“On the question of vigilantism, what do passengers do in situations like that? Is it appropriate to take matters into your own hands?”
“Each situation is different and how a passenger …we have so many cases where passengers assist other riders, and we don’t know exactly what happened here until the investigation is thorough. And each situation is different. I was a former transit police officer and I responded to many jobs where you had a passenger assist someone. We cannot just blanketly say what a passenger should or should not do in a situation like that. We should allow the investigation to take its course.”
No one was assisted in this killing. And yes, the mayor of New York City should issue a blanket denunciation of vigilante violence. Adams does not even know how to be slick and is just trying to make white people feel good, while making clear that he doesn’t care about how Black people feel. Contrast his bad performance with that of Barack Obama, who also didn’t care about Black people, their condition, or their feelings, yet even he knew there were moments when he had to appear as though he did.
In 2012 the story of Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of a vigilante became national news and Obama was shrewd enough to know that he should feign concern.
“My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves. Obviously, this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this has happened."
When Trayvon Martin’s killer was acquitted the Obama Justice Department falsely claimed that they could not undertake a federal prosecution. But Obama had protected himself with his fakery. Adams doesn’t know or care when pretense is called for.
During his campaign Adams told the story of being beaten by police when he was a teenager and claimed that the experience gave him empathy. As mayor he has falsely asserted that modest bail reform increased crime. He sent NYPD commissioner Sewell on a vigilante hunt for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and she emailed every NYPD officer and said that he endangered their lives when he said he wouldn’t prosecute low level offenses. Bragg backtracked and the tiny bit of justice for Black Manhattan residents quickly ended because of a Black mayor and police chief.
Then again, Adams prides himself on ignorance, such as when he openly disdains the separation of church and state, “Don't tell me about no separation of church and state.” “When I walk, I walk with God. When I talk, I talk with God. When I put policies in place, I put them in with a God-like approach to them.” Oddly enough, he did no such thing on Neely’s behalf.
Of course the case can be made that the Black political class shouldn’t be excused when they show some polish and intelligence. Whether smooth like Obama and others, or ham-fisted and half-witted like Adams, the end result is the same. Black people are shoved under the bus whenever the system determines that white people must be placated, which is nearly all the time.
Black New Yorkers should have a semblance of confidence that their lives can’t be snuffed out without a killer being punished. On the other hand, police killings happen with impunity, and as in the days of the slave patrol, every white person is deputized. In the end, whether we have a Black or white or smart or stupid mayor, we know one thing for certain. We are all Jordan Neely.
Margaret Kimberley is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents. You can support her work on Patreon and also find it on the Twitter and Telegram platforms. She can be reached via email at margaret.kimberley(at)blackagendareport.com.