It was a nonstory at best. A moment of awkwardness between Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Navell Gordon, a black campaign volunteer, as both stopped to pose for a photo. In that moment, they couldn’t decide what to do with their free hand. They both fumble a bit and in the end settle on pointing at each other.
It was a harmless moment of insignificance at best, but the situation blew up after news channel KTSP broadcast a story Thursday night claiming that Hodges and Gordon were flashing gang signs.
Gordon is a felon. He will readily admit that. In fact, in a video that shows the awkward moments before the “gang photo” was snapped, Gordon explained that he is still willing to volunteer his time even though some bad life choices took away his privilege of voting. According to the International Business Times, Gordon has been convicted of selling drugs and firearm possession and is under supervised probation until 2016.
What the news station doesn’t mention is that Gordon is now a member of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, “a Minnesota charity aimed at fighting for racial and economic justice for low-income residents,” according to the IB TImes.
And the awkward “gang photo” was taken while the organization’s volunteers canvassed Minneapolis along with the mayor and police chief, Janee Harteau.
The news station and subsequently a retired police chief pushed a nonstory into the news. Retired Minneapolis police Officer Michael Quinn told KTSP that he and several other law-enforcement officials—excluding the current police chief, who was there when the awkwardness took place—were furious at the mayor.
“She is legitimizing these people,” he said. “She is legitimizing gangs who are killing our children in Minneapolis, and I just can’t believe it. It hurts.”
Didn’t matter that the young man wasn’t flashing an actual gang sign—he was black and did something unusual with his hands. And in a racist climate underscored by years of stereotypes, that was enough. Gordon obviously was showing his gang affiliation, and the mayor must have been up to something, too.
This was an opportunity for a news station to highlight not only a young man finding his way back but also a mayor willing to embrace change. But instead a nonstory became the news—and social media didn’t miss the sad, twisted irony of it all: