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Abraham on Barrett--plus, Barrett's lame defense

In a newly posted item at, Globe columnist and Phoenix alum Yvonne Abraham explains why she quickly deleted the email that got BPD Officer Justin Barrett fired. also quotes from a WCVB interview in which Barrett says his email wasn't really about race:

“I did not mean to offend anyone,’’ he said. “The words were being used to characterize behavior, not describe anyone . . . I didn’t mean it in a racist way. I treat everyone with dignity and respect.’’

Barrett and his lawyer said they will fight the charges. “People are making it about race. It is not about race,’’ Barrett said. Gates was arrested by Cambridge police Sergeant James Crowley on charges of disorderly conduct. [emphasis added]

My question: even if we accept Barrett's suggestion that likening Skip Gates to a "banana-eating jungle monkey" has no racial connotations--and that's a toughie--what should we make of his two uses of "ax" in lieu of "ask" in his now-infamous email? After all, as Barrett proudly noted, he is a former English teacher.

  • Ken Foster said:

    Racist? That's the least of it. This guy is a complete nutjob!

    July 30, 2009 2:12 PM
  • love_tori said:

    He also referred to being swarmed by "black gnats", which I get, in the context of the National Guard and being in combat...but, given the tone of this email, I'm sure he meant it in more than one way.

    No matter where you fall on the Gates/Crowley incident, this guy really screwed Crowley. Some brotherhood.

    July 30, 2009 2:22 PM
  • The Kanaka said:

    Id like to invite Justin Barrett to have a Beer with the president.......of FSU

    July 30, 2009 2:39 PM
  • Ally said:

    I always thought "ax" was a Boston thing. Like, "Can I ax yous a question?" Sounds like every WEEI caller.

    July 30, 2009 2:59 PM
  • Dei said:

    He "treat[s] everyone with dignity and respect "?? And that would explain why he referred to the (female) columnist as a "hot bird" and said that she should be "serving him coffee & doughnuts"??

    Sounds REALLY respectful to me (NOT). And even if "ax" is a "Boston thing" for ask, one would think a former English teacher would know better than to write it even if he's lazy enough to use it in daily speech.

    The whole thing sickens me, more so because these are not isolated incidents. Things like this happen each & every day, it's just not as often that the "victim" is such a public person.

    July 30, 2009 3:20 PM
  • Michael Pahre said:

    I always thought that spoken "ax" for "ask" was either an African-American dialect and/or a southern one -- not Boston -- although I have heard some caucasians and asians and people from other parts of the country use it.

    Random House word mavens claim its heritage to 14th-century England -- then have it is a New England dialect until the 19th century, and since then primarily as African-American or southern.

    That said, I never, ever see anyone writing "ax" instead of "ask".  It makes me think that Barrett was using voice-recognition software to type his verbal rants...  not a crazy possibility.

    July 30, 2009 4:26 PM
  • Lance Keimig said:

    How did this guy get to be one of Boston's "Finest" anyway? He should be cleaning toilets.

    July 30, 2009 11:37 PM
  • Hoss said:

    Absolutely no confidence in this guys judgement nor ability to exercise his duties effectively...

    July 31, 2009 1:20 AM
  • Tom Degan said:

    Barrett may be the exception to the rule, but we would be deceiving ourselves were we to conclude that there aren't more than a few cops out there like him.

    A number of years ago, I overheard a New York City police officer who was retiring for reasons of health being asked the question, "What is the biggest regret of your career?" His answer:

    "My biggest regret is that I never killed a ni**er."

    He was actually in a public place when he uttered those words. I am thankful that he's not on the force anymore, too.

    Tom Degan

    July 31, 2009 7:17 AM
  • Jeisun said:

    If there are ANY people of colour who have been arrested by this idiot, do yourselves a favor.  Get an a lawyer and have them review the case!  Chances are you be able to get a new trail based on racial discrimination!  Clearly, anyone who would put in WRITING, what this idiot did, has racial bias.  I'm sure this wasn't the first time he has used those "choice" words.  In addition, what a surprise this my have come to this "officers", (and I use the term loosley) MANY black co-workers who once thought he was a "Friend".  They must be looking at him sidewards.. Let's face it, what could anyone use for an excuse for doing this?!  There really isn't one..  

    July 31, 2009 8:30 AM
  • mevtl123 said:

    I just do not understand why Police Departments are not doing a thorough background check and physiological evaluation of the personnel they hire before they become police officer, obviously, Justin Barrett is a racist’s cop, and He should be fired for the police department and dishonorably discharged from the national guards.

    July 31, 2009 8:49 AM
  • Malcolm xx said:

    Where is the mwdia?  I've seen only once on Larry King which is really an entertainment show.

    August 2, 2009 3:16 PM
  • Michael Johns said:

    Why doesn't the media focus on his suggested title 'Conduct Unbecoming A Jungle Monkey - Back To One's Roots?'

    Implying Gates reverted back to his roots. How can that be taken as not racist? CNN's Larry King and Erica Hill failed to mention that part of the email. How can he explain that one away?

    August 5, 2009 1:39 AM

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