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.
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 days—Hillary 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.