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For most of his life, the former head of a Miami police union, Javier Ortiz, identified as a white Hispanic man, but at a city commission meeting on Friday, Ortiz told commissioners said that he is now black.
“I’m a black male. Yes, I am,” Ortiz said, adding, “and I am not Hispanic. I was born in this country. That’s how I feel.”
The hearing was part of a commission meeting studying allegations of racism against black employees of the Miami Police Department.
#BREAKING: @MiamiPD Capt. @OrtizFOP tells city commission "I am a black male" after he was caught lying about his race on 2014 lieutenant's exam and 2017 captain's application — his original MPD application says he's white Hispanic #BecauseMiami pic.twitter.com/meaJ2mlQGn
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) January 17, 2020
While being questioned by a commissioner, Ortiz, who has faced accusations of discrimination from black city of Miami residents in the past, said he recently learned that there are people in his family “who are mixed and are black.” The comments were part of a bizarre exchange between Ortiz and local officials.
“When you applied to the police department, did you classify yourself as a black male or a white male at the time?” Commissioner Keon Hardemon asked.
“I know I put white male, but I don’t know if I put Hispanic,” the police officer responded. According to the Miami New Times, Ortiz has been claiming he’s black since at least 2014 when he claimed he was black a lieutenant application and again later in a 2017 captain application. Both applications were made public by the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, a union for black officers, which has complained of acts of racism being ignored in the Miami Police Department.
At the hearing, an incredulous Commissioner Joe Carollo asked Ortiz, “When did you have this coming to God moment that you were black? When did God tell you that?”
“Well, I learned that there are people in my family who are mixed and that are black,” he replied.
“Ok, let’s not talk about the degree of blackness,” Hardemon, who is African-American, interjected.
“Oh, no, you’re blacker than me,” Ortiz replied to the visibly perplexed and troubled commissioner. “And if you know anything about the ‘one drop rule,’ which started in the 20th century, which is what identifies and defines…what a black male is or a negro, you would know that if you have one drop of black [blood] in you, you are considered black.”
Ortiz concluded his remarks by adding that half of his family is Jewish, which amused the commissioners.
“Mr. Ortiz claimed that he was black. Now he says he’s Jewish black. I’m afraid maybe next month he’ll be a black Jewish woman. I don’t know,” Carollo said.