Several prominent black civil rights leaders and elected officials are raising money for the defense of the four black gang members on trial for assaulting white truck driver Reginald Denny during this year's Los Angeles riots.
Although I'm dismayed that any adult would support the four thugs who, according to a videotape, apparently tried to kill a working stiff of a white man, I understand the motives of vote-grabbing politicians.
But how can civil rights leaders side with the accused assailants of an innocent man? Because four white cops beat black motorist Rodney King, these misguided folks argue that the gang members were justified in beating Denny.
Not only is this bad logic, but those using it fail to see that Denny's victimization was out of character for these gang bangers who typically maim and murder their fellow black Americans.
The Denny incident was a "freak accident" in every sense of the phrase. Yes, black males are murdering one another in record numbers, leaving authorities frustrated, prisons filled to overflowing and loved ones _ mostly thousands of abandoned young women and their children _ angry, penniless and heartbroken. Don't these criminals comprehend the depth of the pain and loss they cause? Can't they see that their wanton acts destroy people's lives forever?
Think of the recent murder of Wayne Allen Simpson, the 19-year-old student at historically black Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach. On the night of Sept. 16, Simpson, accompanied by three friends, had closed the deli his father owned, where he worked to help pay school expenses. Four black gunmen approached Simpson and his friends, forced them to lie face down on the sidewalk, robbed and shot them. Simpson, who was shot in the back where he lay, died. His companions were shot also but they survived.
The community where Simpson grew up, the tiny campus where he was a popular student and his family are devastated. One irony is that this young man, who had proved himself a capable entrepreneur, was to inherit the family business in a few months. Everyone had predicted that he would be successful.
The blacks who killed Simpson in Daytona Beach are the same type who beat Denny in L.A., who routinely blow away infants and toddlers in drive-by shootings, who terrorize neighborhoods, who vamp on girls before they're out of puberty, who cause cops to risk their lives.
These are the very people for whom civil rights leaders are raising money. When we elevate such common thugs to the status of heroes, we discredit the legitimacy of our struggle for equality. When we blame our self-destructiveness solely on whites, we become a race of fools.
When are we going to learn that the incorrigibles among us _ especially those of the crack generation who compulsively prey upon society _ need to be permanently locked away for the common good?
Before the heyday of the civil rights movement that began in the 1960s, most black adults were intolerant of crimes by children, and they tried to help through the schools, churches and families.
Today, however, too many adults are willing to play the victimization card, too willing to accept the "environment made us do it" claptrap and, as in Los Angeles, too willing to raise money in defense of thugs.
Ironically, because Simpson's killers were black, a wire service article stated that race was not a factor in his death. Nothing is more race-related than blacks killing other blacks. It's all about race. Blackness _ framed by generations of self-hatred _ is cause for black Americans to kill one another.
And the biggest paradox of black-on-black violence is the claim that these drug dealers, thieves and murderers are looking for "power and respect." Speaking about this new wave of fratricide to the Times-Herald, a Daytona Beach area black newspaper, Lonnie Colon, a Bethune-Cookman student leader and friend of Wayne Simpson, said: "There are other ways to gain power and respect in this society, and we need to start showing young people other choices. . . . Right now, it's either you're the one with the gun or you're the one who's dead."
Bill Maxwell is a columnist for the Gainesville Sun.
New York Times News Service