'You Black Men' Should Have a Curfew: California Newspaper Apologizes for Police Shooting Op-Ed

The publisher of a small weekly newspaper in Rancho Murieta, California, apologized after receiving backlash from a piece calling for a curfew on black men.

The River Valley Times's opinion piece by Marcia Courson, a white woman, addressed the March 18 shooting death of Stephon Clark, 22, who was killed by two Sacramento police officers in his grandmother’s backyard. The officers had responded to a call about a person breaking car windows and pursued Clark as a suspect before shooting him eight times. Courson's column suggested the incident could partially be blamed on black males staying outside too late into the evening.

Courson, a freelance op-ed writer for a decade, penned the controversial sentence in the print version of the newspaper last Wednesday before images of the sentence went viral online. “In Stephon’s situation, the cell phone he carried looked like a small black gun. Police have to be careful not to overreact and you black men might be better off at home after a certain hour.”

“So we need to ask ourselves before overreacting or advocating reduction of these shootings — Do we really understand why a shooting occurred?” Courson continued. “We must not immediately assume that a policeman has no reason to confront a suspect.”

According to the five-year U.S. Census American Community Survey, the 5,000-resident town of Rancho Murieta is home to an 89 percent white community. Only about 1 percent, or approximately 70 people, are black. River Valley Times publisher and general manager Dave Herburger told the Sacramento Bee Friday he was responsible for running the column but hadn’t read it beforehand because the paper’s editor was out due to a family illness.

He told the Sacramento Bee the column was “not acceptable” and that “having a race-based curfew connotes Nazi Germany.” Herburger noted that when he informed Courson of his unhappiness with the “tone-deaf” column, she was “very apologetic.” He said Courson has always been a strongly opinionated writer but had never expressed any opinions similar to this in past columns. The publisher told Sacramento's KOVR-TV he’s unsure if Courson will continue writing for the newspaper, but he expects an explanation to be printed in this week’s printed edition.

A local resident said he and his family were incredulous after reading the column, telling KOVR-TV, “Why would you say something like that? Just disgusting.” A black resident living in the area said, “We’ve lived out here what, a year and a half? And have been welcomed and never had any issues on that.”