The death of a homeless man on a New York City subway has sparked protests and a vitriolic race war. The 30-year-old man named Jordan Neely was getting loud and threatening on an F train when he was put in a chokehold by an ex-Marine named Daniel Penny. He died hours later in the hospital.
A video that made the rounds last week showed Penny and two other men holding Neely down in a chokehold. It prompted liberal voices to call this a racially motivated killing, simple as that. But is it as simple as that?
Passengers say that Neely was yelling and threatening other people “in an aggressive manner” and yelling that he “had no food, he had no drink, that he was tired and doesn’t care if he goes to jail,” Vazquez said. Neely was known for being aggressive by people NYC Subway regulars and had at least 42 prior arrests, some for assault.
New video shows that Penny and two other men put Neely in a recovery position and that he was still alive when they left him. Still, protestors want to call this a racial killing and reminiscent of racial lynching. Major protests and disruptions raged through the city with calls for justice including this one where a black man was stopped from riding the train by protestors.
A grand jury will meet today to decide if Penny will be charged in the incident.
It’s a sad state of affairs but we must ask ourselves: what are we being invited to conclude if we rush to judgment along racial lines? What are the implications of charging or not charging Penny? This problem requires far more nuance than a racial call to arms on Twitter. Clearly.