Roland Martin talks with Omaha City Councilman Franklin Thompson and Willie Hamilton, Executive Director of Omaha’s Black Men United, about the viral toddler video and what the men believe is the bigger problem in Omaha.
Read the entire interview below.
ROLAND MARTIN: We, of course, have seen this story, Sybil has talked about it, it’s on blackamerica.com of this toddler in Omaha, Nebraska videotaped and it was placed on YouTube cussing, shooting the finger and being called all kind of crazy vile things. The child has been removed from the family’s home after the Omaha police union posted this on their Facebook page…He’s cussing out, N word; I mean just all kinds of stuff being used. And, again, the Omaha police union, they’ve come under fire for posting this video. Right now, Franklin Thompson, who is a City Councilmember, one of two African-Americans on the City Council there in Omaha, joins us on the phone line. And we have two guests, but first I want to go to Franklin. Franklin, the Omaha police union, you go to their website, the website has been taken down. They’ve come under fire, you know, for this. There’s been lots of discussion in Omaha about this. What do you make of their actions to post this video and to bring this level of attention to the City of Omaha?
FRANLIN THOMPSON: Good morning, Roland. First of all thank you for addressing this issue, it’s needed. And to answer your question, you could make an argument for reposting the video, but you can also make an argument for standing down from taking that action. It’s unfortunate. I probably would have not reposted it. But it’s not all negative. There are some good things that can come from it.
ROLAND MARTIN: Like what?
FRANLIN THOMPSON: Oh, for example, for years I said that the effects of racism and poverty have gotten into the black system here in Omaha in a way that causes us to hate ourselves as a people. It’s not a new concept, Malcolm said it quite often, for one reason or another both political parties don’t get it. So we’re politicizing it rather than getting to the core issue. And the core issue that we have a lot of people here that hate themselves. And I’m not sure that just talking about the police part of it is enough. It’s a good thing that we’re talking about that, but there are other issues to that, that are not being [discussed]
ROLAND MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. And that’s why we talked yesterday, that there are so many different angles to this. I want to bring in Willie Hamilton, the Executive Director of Black Men United there in Omaha, and Willie I am very, clearly I am bothered by this toddler, and the language being used towards him, and coming back at him. And you have the police union saying, oh, this is about thug culture. But one thing that does jump out at me, Child Protective Services removed the kid. Now nothing illegal has been done. It’s not like they were physically harming the child. And so what do you make of this, how this whole thing is played out, Willie.
WILLIE HAMILTON: I think racism is at the core of this, Roland. And before I get started I want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to come on and talk about an even wider issue when it comes to what just actually took place. Councilman Franklin Thompson and I know each other very well, and we have worked together in the past regarding issues with this particular piece. The piece with the Child Protective Services I think is the wrong way to go, simply for Nebraska, because we take more kids out of their homes, number two in the country, but not in the state, Franklin Thompson. So I didn’t think that would be the way to go. I think this thing is far-reaching. I think it has to do with the culture of the gang, and what the gang unit is trying to do, and the history behind that. So I’m very upset that they took this route. I think they should’ve come to the community, and asked for assistance to help this family, to keep them reunified instead of putting the video on the Internet. And now we have an even wider distrust of the Omaha police department.
ROLAND MARTIN: Councilman Thompson, you and I talked, and look, one of the things that jumps out is Omaha has a significant gang problem. The police say; oh, you can hear folks speaking about gangs on the video, but also you have an issue in that police department as well when it comes to lawsuits and its relationship with black folks in Omaha, Nebraska.
FRANLIN THOMPSON: By no means it’s broken and we need to get it fixed. And Willie and I have been talking about the need for police oversight. It’s something that I have joined him recently in and we’re going to be working on that together as we go forth in the future. But I …
TOM JOYNER: Roland, and gentlemen, I hate to stop you in this conversation, but there’s a follow-up to this story. The Child Protective Services have been moving this family for three months, from place to place.
WILLIE HAMILTON: Now, I have …
TOM JOYNER: They’ve been moving this family, this 19-year-old mother, and the three children; they moved that family three times.
WILLIE HAMILTON: Sir, that’s inaccurate, there’s more to that story than meets the eye. I’ve been contacted by the Nebraska Families Collaborative, who is basically the group that’s in charge of the family right now, and once we meet we’ll get more details to what actually happened that three months prior of them being removed.
TOM JOYNER: I’m quoting the story that I saw. I saw an interview with the, I saw an interview with the 19-year-old mother, and she was saying that she deserves a second chance of getting – and they have moved her, because of gang violence – they have moved her and her family three times.
WILLIE HAMILTON: I’m talking about the 16-year-old.
ROLAND MARTIN: Okay, who is, okay, I’m sorry, you’re saying the 16-year-old, Thomas and the 19-year-old. Who is the 16-year-old?
WILLIE HAMILTON: The 16-year-old is the one that has the young child that was removed, and there was three other children removed as well.
ROLAND MARTIN: So you had several people in this home?
TOM JOYNER: And the grandmother, and the grandmother has also been arrested for weapons charges.
WILLIE HAMILTON: Yes.
TOM JOYNER: I mean the Child Protective Services has done …
SYBIL WILKES: This has been going on for …
TOM JOYNER: This is going on for a long time.
WILLIE HAMILTON: Sir, I was not aware of that. This all came out after these kids were removed. And before I would comment on any of that stuff I would have to meet with, first of all, Nebraska Families Collaborative, who I just found out has been involved in this thing for almost four months.
ROLAND MARTIN: Councilman Thompson, I do want to ask you, is it – you made it clear you’ve got to deal with in terms of families and children and how they’re being raised in poverty as well there in that city.
FRANLIN THOMPSON: Yes, the young two-year-old is not the only victim in the video. The teenagers whose voice we hear, most likely, they two have been brainwashed. And so what we have is this cycle, and while we’re politicizing it we’re forgetting that there’s a deeper problem here in Omaha that we’ve got to get to. And that’s what I’m more concerned with. How do we get our kids to stop hurting themselves and hating themselves.
SYBIL WILKES: And how quickly can you get on this?
FRANLIN THOMPSON: Well, it’s a problem that took hundreds of years to develop.
SYBIL WILKES: Right.
FRANLIN THOMPSON: But there are some things that can be done if the politics are set aside. Right now what’s being done is trying to blame the community versus blame the police, and then the kids are losing, you know, they’re the ones who are losing.
ROLAND MARTIN: Omaha Councilman, Franklin Thompson, and also Willie Hamilton, Black Men United in Omaha, thanks a bunch. And, again, to me this is not one of those clear-cut stories. There’s so many layers to it, Tom. But at the end of the day, there’s one word that can be used; absolutely sad.