Earlier this week, someone asked me what I thought about the recent chokehold death of Jordan Neely on a New York City subway by a former marine and if race had anything to do with how the situation is being handled. Neely was a black man, and the perpetrator is a white man.
Neely, 30, suffered from mental illness. His mother was brutally murdered by her boyfriend when he was a teen. Some contend that the event contributed to his downward spiral. He was homeless, had a long rap sheet, and garnered meager funds from performing as a Michael Jackson look-a-like on the streets of New York. I remember seeing and watching Neely perform near a subway station years ago when I worked in Manhattan and would take the subway up to Harlem and the Bronx.
I thought his death was tragic and horrible and that the man, an ex-marine named Daniel Penny, should be at the very least charged with criminal assault–primarily based on the widely circulated cell phone video of the attack and various published accounts. Eyewitnesses on the subway said Neely was acting erratic, shouting and annoying fellow passengers. He grappled with Penny, who overpowered him with a deadly chokehold. The video shows at least two other fellow passengers helping to restrain Neely. As of today, no charges have been filed against the ex-marine, and several protest marches and rallies have occurred in the aftermath of Neely’s death.
While I’m hesitant to boldly say that race has something to do with how the matter is being handled, I regretfully say that, in one way or another–it most likely does. For example, here you have yet ANOTHER case of a person of color being beaten or killed by a white man. Over the years, I’ve written about and covered so many of these stories that I could almost recite the circumstances before reading a police report or watching a video of the attack.
Add to the mix some of my personal experiences over the years–including working with someone who was an ex-marine and constantly–to the point of being nauseating–boasted about his tour of duty, Pro-America, Pro-Violence, and Pro-Trump stance. He was among the most bigoted, racist, and hateful people I have ever encountered.
At any rate, I think the tragedy of Jordan Neely is a testament to the CHOKEHOLD and lack of adequate and sufficient mental health treatment that currently exists for people who need it the most. And by the way, May is Mental Health Awareness month. Rest in Peace and Power, Jordan Neely.