Black-on-Black Crime in the Suites; African-American Political Power Didn't Protect Civil Rights, It Robbed Us Blind

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert L. Woodson, Sr., SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

For decades, it was presumed that having blacks in positions of political leadership on the local, state and national levels would serve as a safeguard to preserve the victories of the civil rights movement and ensure that the people on whose behalf those battles had been fought could benefit from the new opportunities that those victories afforded. But in time, just the opposite has happened. In an era where race has begun to serve as both a shield (rebuffing legitimate criticism as evidence of racism) and a sword (attacking dissenting opinions as racist) many black officials have entered zones of comfort insulated from responsibility. In many cities, monopolies of opportunist leadership have reigned unchallenged for decades.

A case in point is that of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who, along with his cronies, was indicted on 38 charges, in what a federal prosecutor described as a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud by some of Detroit's most prominent officials. Charges in the indictment include extortion, mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice, malicious threats to extort money, and bribery.

The accusations against Kilpatrick were described in detail by Walter Russell Mead, editor of The American Interest. He reports that the mayor and the friends he recruited to serve his administration looted millions from the government coffers and accepted bribes in the form of trips on chartered jets, golf outings, and massages. The same real-estate firm that paid these bribes also used Detroit pension funds to buy out-of-state strip malls that cost the fund $3.1 million. The property titles were never transferred to the pension fund. According to a Detroit Free Press investigation, throughout the years, corrupt and incompetent trustees appointed by the Detroit Democratic officials racked up nearly a half-billion dollars in failed investments of the pension fund, on which many low- and middle-income city employees were relying for their retirement income.

The opportunists' devastation of Detroit is not an anomaly. Black-on-black crime in the suites has become as common place as black-on-black crime on the streets. It is so commonplace that the public has become numb to its existence.

Recently, a former District councilman Harry Thomas, Jr., conspired with others to redirect $300,000 intended to purchase sports equipment for low-income kids. The money instead, was used to purchase such luxuries as a $69,000 SUV, Pebble Beach, Calif., golf outings, and designer clothes. When Thomas' attorney tried to use his years of service to the community as a mitigating factor in order to lighten his sentence, the prosecutor correctly observed that his public service was, in fact, related to his crime and was designed to mask his real intention - satisfying his greed. Thomas was sentenced to 38 months in prison.

Just a stone's throw from the nation's capital, in Prince George's County, a former county executive, Jack Johnson, and his wife drew prison terms for accepting bribes for directing county contracts to friends and acquaintances, regardless of the impact this had on the people to be served. …