The AWOL Walter Fauntroy, Flawed Black Martyrs And The Duty Of Outrage

Walter Fauntroy, D.C. icon, civil rights hero, fugitive, coward, crook...but still a hero. Somehow.

Walter Fauntroy, D.C. icon, civil rights hero, fugitive, coward, crook…but still a hero. Somehow.

As I was composing this post in my head, I stumbled upon—and I mean that, because I normally avoid her columns like cheap Chinese food—Kathleen Parker’s latest column. Parker is the sort-of conservative, sort-of op-ed pundit who has mastered the art of compassionate equivocation, meaning that her opinions on public affairs usually consist of one long sigh. She was at it again here, except that the topic she was sighing about confounds me, he who does not shrink from assigning blame, almost as much as it does she who usually spreads blame so evenly that its ethical impact is nil.

Parker wrote…

At the same time that people avoid too-sensitive subjects, they seem to fear stating the obvious lest their thoughts be interpreted as an act of betrayal to “the group.” Politicians are the most risk-averse of all. Few are the Democratic women who will find (or express) fault with Clinton. It is the rare African American who finds fault with Obama. When Rawlings-Blake also said that she “gave those who wished to destroy space to do that,” her Democratic colleagues spoke only of her “poor choice of words.” Not poor thinking? Not lousy leadership? Republicans don’t get a pass. Heaven forbid they should call out someone who wants to inject biblical end-times into political debate.”

Ah, how it makes my chest fill with pride that I have flagged all three of the ethical breaches Parker mentions within the few daysHillary Clinton’s brazenly suspicious conduct and the disgraceful refusal of her cheering section to either acknowledge or question it…Rawlings-Blake’s “lousy leadership”… and Republicans who use religiosity as a prop. Parker being Parker, she had earlier used an example of missing outrage that sets my teeth on edge because, while correct, it calls to mind another area of missing outrage and societally-damaging martyrdom that I can’t quite figure out how to talk about.

Where is the outrage beyond the African American community about police brutality and the deaths of young black males? Where are members of Congress other than those belonging to the black caucus? My God, the list of those killed is staggering,” she writes, “yet this is not a new phenomenon. Baltimore’s Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who suffered spinal injuries while in police custody and died, is but the most recent. Yet you see only the usual black activists speaking up.”

True. The missing paragraph, however,  is this: “Where are the African-American activists asking why so many young black men are constantly in positions that place them in conflict with the police? When protesters chant the names and carry photos of police victims like Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, yes, and Mike Brown, they are presenting in honored terms African-Americans who weren’t credits to their communities or examples for the next generation to emulate. Indeed this ritual sanctifies lives and backgrounds that are part of the same urban pathology as the police attitudes that killed them.”

Freddie Gray was only 25-years-old, and yet he already had a staggering 18 previous arrests since he turned 18-years-old. His mother was a heroin addict; he had no father in his life. Why was someone like this even out of jail, in a position to become yet another victim of police anger and contempt against the endless wave of young, irresponsible, law-defying young men who undermine the vitality of their own communities and the nation?

The fact that Gray’s death was undeniably the greater outrage shouldn’t allow the outrage of lives like his to be ignored. Black crime and police dysfunction are part of the same pathology. If only the Bill O’Reillys are going to ask the hard questions about black communities policing their young and changing their deadly culture—and are they really hard for O’Reilly, whose audience is inclined to look for ways to side with the police even when they commit murder?—then those questions and their equally hard answers, involving, among other things, avoidance of responsibility and accountability, can be and will be largely ignored.

This is part of the loyalty to “the group” phenomenon that cripples the African-American community and warps its values. It is especially powerful when prominent leaders, those African-Americans who should be leading the way away from self-destructive conduct and who have the power, visibility, and credibility to do so, demonstrate an atrocious lack of ethics themselves. Where are the black voices—those not belonging to black women he sexually assaulted, that is—condemning Bill Cosby? Or Al Sharpton? Charles Rangel?

Washington, D.C.’s overwhelmingly black population was conditioned to accept black leadership outrages by the late Marion Barry. I was not quite aware of the extent of this cultural purging of the ability to hold prominent African-Americans to ethical standards until I read a jaw-dropping Washington Post feature about the wife of local civil rights legend Walter E. Fauntroy, who helped Martin Luther King plan the 1963 March on Washington, and who served as the District’s congressional delegate for two decades. The tone of the article is enough to make a reader think he or she is going mad. The loving 80-year-old wife, Dorothy Fauntroy, speaks about her husband in glowing terms that nothing in the article suggests is inappropriate.

She said she has been praying for him to come home.“I believe he’s going to come back. I really believe he wants to come back to see his grandson,” Dorothy said as she sat underneath a framed newspaper photo from 199o showing the couple embracing their daughter Melissa Alice, whose son was born 10 months ago. “I really believe Walter was tickled when he found out he was born. He wanted to know what the name was. I told him it was Jason.”

Wait, why can’t Walter, the civil rights icon and local hero—oh yes, he’s also a pastor…a man of God!—see his grand child? The reason is that he’s on the lam.

He is believed to be in Dubai since a bench warrant was issued for his arrest in Prince George’s County, Maryland, because of the $50,000 check he bounced more than six years ago when he was planning for an inauguration party for President Obama. Fauntroy’s disappearance has been called “mysterious” by local news stories so frequently that I assumed he was dead, or had dementia and wandered away from a nursing home. No, there’s no mystery. He committed a crime, that’s all, and ran.

You know, like Mike Brown, like Walter Scott and like Freddie Gray.

The Post, never uttering a harsh word about Walter, tells us that Dorothy Fauntroy was left destitute by her husband of 58 years, and that she has spoken to him on the phone as recently as last month. She has declared bankruptcy and is depending on gifts from his friends to keep their home out of foreclosure. But she’s not upset with Walter.  Apparently nobody in D.C. is upset with Walter; after all, he’s a civil rights icon, a shining star, a role model!

Despite their financial and legal struggles, Dorothy said she’s never felt betrayed by Walter’s absence. “I’ve gone through a lot of hard times in the past and lots of things have happened to me,” said Dorothy, who fended off a Stage 1 colon cancer diagnosis 10 years ago. Now she keeps a collection of porcelain angel figurines and music boxes around their home. “I just pray. I give it to the Lord and let him work it out. There’s no point in me getting upset and worrying. That’s what he’s done.”

That’s so nice, don’t you think? As they used to say in vaudeville, though, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Take a gander at this  from the Post story, and hold on to your skull:

Maryland State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s), who considers Walter a close friend and mentor, said Friday that he spoke with Fauntroy about a month ago. “He called from a Dubai number and said that he was fine, and that he wanted to come home in April. He sounded like Walter.”

Barnes said he and others are trying to persuade Fauntroy to let them visit him in Dubai. They’d like to check on his health and talk him into coming home. Barnes declined to specify what Walter’s doing abroad, only that he wants to “eliminate world hunger, promote a green economy, and world peace.”

“He’s got a group of people who’ve been helping him to refine these proposals, and he’s hoping to get funding,” Barnes said.

Right. Walter Fauntroy ran out on his family all the way to Dubai so he could eliminate world hunger.

Walter Fauntroy is a coward. He has betrayed his wife, his family, his legacy, his ideals, his city, his community and his country. His conduct would be despicable if he were a typical unknown citizen; for a local hero and exemplar, it is much, much worse.

But almost as disgraceful is the unwillingness and inability of his community to clearly and unequivocally condemn his conduct, and to allow men like Walter Fauntroy, and Marion Barry, and Bill Cosby, to teach young black men to defy the law, turn their backs on the needs of their own families and community, and run, whether it gets them killed or not.


Sources: Washington Post 1, 2

21 thoughts on “The AWOL Walter Fauntroy, Flawed Black Martyrs And The Duty Of Outrage

  1. And Mumia was just a journalist and black voice and Philip Berrigan was a moral giant, instead of the violent thug and sociopathic vandal they really were. Moral gloss.

  2. That’s just strange, considering so many pastors have misappropriated funds, it would have cost far less to face up to it. All the gifts to relocate him and support her are more than fines and reparation. And if they still trust him anyway just give us all a tearful apology on camera and stay pastor. That is just one kind of job where embezzlement is less likely to totally ruin him.

    I feel sorry for the somewhat dotty wife even if I think forgiveness can only come after contrition and atonement.

  3. “Where are the African-American activists asking why so many young black men are constantly in positions that place them in conflict with the police? When protesters chant the names and carry photos of police victims like Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, yes, and Mike Brown, they are presenting in honored terms African-Americans who weren’t credits to their communities or examples for the next generation to emulate. Indeed this ritual sanctifies lives and backgrounds that are part of the same urban pathology as the police attitudes that killed them.”

    What? That isn’t what we are discussing right now. We are focused on the police. It doesn’t matter if a suspect has committed murder in plain view of a police officer — that officer doesn’t get to kill the suspect once he is in custody — either through neglect or an intentional act.

    We already have a process that deals with the actual crime — it’s called the judicial system. Discussing Freddie Gray’s past crimes, childhood, etc. only serves one purpose — to somehow explain or rationalize the officers’ conduct. And, quite frankly, it smacks of racism. As I mentioned yesterday, riots are common after sporting events — riots that often involve a majority if not a super-majority of white people. But we never go through this exercise of examining the rioters’ backgrounds.

    If you want to talk about the problems plaguing inner city communities, I’m all for it. But those problems are irrelevant to the question of whether or not police brutality occurred.

    • That’s not what I wrote, Beth. The police brutality is the direct result of mutual earned distrust. There are too damn many black perps, too many running from cops, so many that bigotry is seeded and nurtured among those who have to battle them day after day, feeling threatened all the while. I’m in no danger from a crazed cop—know why? I don’t break laws. I wouldn’t run. I wouldn’t be a deadbeat dad, or beat up a store-owner to steal cigars, or try to take a gun or taser away from a cop, or sell bootleg cigarettes. because that’s how I was raised, and I would just as soon leap off a building. Don’t say that its irrelevant, and don’t imply that I didn’t say, in the article, that there was no excuse for police brutality and black deaths. I did say it. I did say it when I quoted Parker’s column and marked it “True.” Did you miss that? I think that is pretty unequivocal.

      I had to listen to Hillary Clinton talking about “mass incarceration” as if those missing black men from families and communities just were sort of sucked into jail by circumstances beyond their control. Is the conduct of those men also irrelevant to that problem, because, you know, it’s related to the police violence too. Gee, if Freddie wasn’t in jail after 18 [NOT 189 as I erroneously typed–he wasn’t THAT bad] arrests, what kind of men ARE in jail?

      The bottom line is that Freddie and Mike aren’t heroes or role models, and the attitude in the aftermath of these events, led by families (I really believed that Mike Brown was a college bound, peace-loving, harmless happy law-abiding kid after his shooting, because that’s how his parents described him) warps the discussion, and dangerously so.

      • “Gee, if Freddie wasn’t in jail after 189 arrests, what kind of men ARE in jail?”

        Funny typo Jack but spot on answer. I guess Beth is carrying the torch today rather than Charles.

        • And interesting developments today regarding witnesses to what did or did not happen after Mr. Gray was apprehended and in the paddy wagon. Even CNN is reporting on it. Is Baltimore another Ferguson-like example of “I’m bull-rushing you, don’t shoot”/ agitators rush to judgment? I am surprised how restrained even CNN has been on that front.

      • But here’s the difference. The public is allowed to mistrust the police, but the police aren’t allowed to mistrust the public and engage in brutality against them — because their job is to protect and serve. It’s what they signed up for. If they can’t do their jobs, then they need to be fired. And if they commit crimes while doing their jobs, then they need to go to prison.

        I have tremendous respect for the police. I think they should be paid more which in turn will result in better recruitment. I have close family who work in law enforcement. But there can be absolutely no excuse or explanation for police brutality under any circumstances — even if the officer in question works in a hellhole.

        • Actually, I considered that the premier point that Jack made in his entire essay. It’s also the first question that occurred to me when I first saw Gray’s background. 18 arrests since he attained his majority, virtually all of them for felonious crimes- most for distributing narcotics. 18 felony arrests in only seven years! Why, indeed, was this character not only in prison years ago, but locked in its deepest dungeon?! The answer is the revolving door judicial system for habitual criminals that are likewise “underprivileged”. And, because the Baltimore judges wouldn’t take this latter day “Superfly” off the streets… well, “Freddie’s dead”. For myself, I’m just wondering how many young people are going through withdrawal symptoms, now that their chief junkie is in Hell. And how many of them were introduced into the living hell of addiction because of the lamented Mr. Gray? They were likely among the looters; trying to steal enough for their next fix from another dealer. Thus does crime perpetuate itself, all because of a broken justice system.

  4. Let’s look at crime statistics. I saw an article yesterday stating that they scientifically proved that owning a firearm increases your chance of being killed by a firearm. I knew that was not statistically possible, but it led me to some interesting statistics on this topic.

    Blacks in the US are 11x more likely to be murdered with a firearm than whites (yes, eleven times). Blacks are also only half as likely to own a firearm. So, blacks are much less likely to own a firearm, but much more likely to be killed with one. Why? Now, I am not an idiot as to think the gun has magical powers to protect or incite people to violence like many on both sides of the gun control argument. I do think the answer lies in this post. The black community has bought into a philosophy that is really bad for them. They embrace criminals and idolize them, then wonder why their children become criminals. They embrace gun control in their neighborhoods and the concept of being a good victim and then they become victims of gang violence and hoodlums who terrorize their neighborhoods. I often wondered why the black community doesn’t embrace firearms ownership. They are told to look for the police alone for protection, but they are also told to distrust the police by these same sources, so they are left helpless, afraid, and victimized. If you took every elderly, law abiding black man who sits on the front porch of his house all day and gave him an AR-15 or a Mini-14, you could solve a lot of this blatant lawlessness. Chicago is so lawless that the city has to pay a line of people ($50/day) to stand along the school routes to keep the kids from being assaulted or killed by the local residents. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just arm the old men in the neighborhood? Many of them were trained by the Army in Vietnam to use the M-16 and M-14 upon which the AR-15 and Mini-14 are based. You can buy these rifles for ~$800, which is less than you pay those unarmed, untrained ‘watchers’ in a month. Thugs would really be less likely to blatantly engage in threatening behavior if 2-3 front porches on every block had a rifle-wielding old man with nothing better to do than look out for his neighborhood all day.

    Now, if you think we can’t trust blacks to responsibly own firearms and act as a neighborhood watch, that’s just racist. Concealed carry owners have to go through the same background checks police officers do, and we let police officers have firearms. Why do I insist on them being armed? Because the thugs they are watching are armed. Why are the police armed? Because the people they deal with are armed. Try to say “Hey, you leave that little kid alone, I’m calling the police” to a armed gang members. See what happens next. Then say it while you have a Mini-14 propped up next to your chair and the guy 3 doors down joins you in your protest with a rifle on his porch as well. The point isn’t for them to become vigilantes, the point is that they need to be armed to allow them to speak out. The mere fact that they are armed allows them the freedom to speak out and stand up for what is right. The elderly men (and women) who look out for their communities are an invaluable asset against crime in many neighborhoods, but they need the freedom to act. The ability to defend themselves allows them that freedom.

    • Sounds to me like a sure-fire recipe for open street warfare. The gangs will surround and overwhelm the older, armed solos, kill them and take their weapons.

      • I doubt it. Criminals are basically cowards. Yes, they will gladly attack someone they view as a helpless victim, but no one wants to get shot. Criminals are not engaging in some holy war with the rest of the citizens where they are willing to martyr themselves gladly for the cause. They are doing what they think (and know) they can get away with. Will they become angels? No, but they will adjust to the reality that they can’t get away with as much anymore.

        • But if an old guy on a porch has a nice weapon and all you have to do is kill him to get it, how hard an operation is that? Less expensive than buying the weapon. You don’t think gangs are tactical and strategic and concerned about holding onto ground?

          • I agree with Other Bill’s estimation here, of the outcome of Michael R’s proposal. Gangs are about force; once sufficiently entrenched, only superior force will stop them. But arming the old men in the ‘hood would only make for a more target-rich environment for the gangsters. If you really, really want to get rid of the gangs, you have to be a “spetsnaz” about it: Surveil, infiltrate, bait, entrap, sow dissension, discredit, and destroy. Discredit and destroy enough of them, fast enough, and they’ll dissent and self-divide, self-destruct to an extent, and desist in chronically disorganized retreat at least, if not disband and dissolve. But if you ever let up on the offensive, you can be sure they’ll re-group and resume.

            Removing targets of opportunity from the gangsters’ reach is another way to deal. (I commented along that line in another thread.) It is possible to make their turf enough of a “desert” to them that they start killing off each other. But that – internecine war – by itself, has limited effectiveness. Removing the targets would be more for the sake of “winning” the targets’ survival than the gangs’ losing of much besides a stream of recruits.

  5. “Blacks in the US are 11x more likely to be murdered with a firearm than whites (yes, eleven times). Blacks are also only half as likely to own a firearm. So, blacks are much less likely to own a firearm, but much more likely to be killed with one. Why? ”

    I assume we’re talking about legal firearms. Chicago, for instance, is awash in illegal firearms in the hands of black gang members.

      • So you’re saying that they’re only half as likely to own a firearm, LEGAL OR ILLEGAL, as a white person? Because I’d really have to dispute that, given that a large percentage of black market firearms wind up in the hands of black gangs.
        And, there are more black market firearms than legally sold.

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