Wilhemina Vaughn has a king-sized bone to pick with the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.
You all know who Jesse Jackson is, although most of us are still not sure exactly what it is he does for a living. But polls show he is black America's premier leader. (Polls show Louis Farrakhan second. Once again I say, with leadership like this, black Americans must be in real trouble.)
You've probably never heard of Vaughn, so I'll give a brief thumbnail sketch of the woman: one ticked-off, average citizen.
Maybe Vaughn, like I am, is hoping Jackson retires before he leads us again. But she called me Thursday afternoon, livid that the good reverend would come to town and plead that Flint Gregory Hunt not be executed. Vaughn, you see, knows the pain of someone who has had a family member murdered.
"My daughter Sherry Vaughn was stabbed to death last Oct. 13," Vaughn fumed. "Why doesn't [Jackson] come into town about the victims? Why does he come for a convicted murderer?"
Vaughn then went on to delve into the ever-vexing matter of Jackson's sincerity.
"It's just a show," she said of the reverend's appearance in Baltimore. "It's so much of an ego trip. He doesn't give a damn about this guy [Hunt]. While [Jackson's] talking, somebody else is being murdered."
Vaughn then went on to list her credentials, lest anyone jump to the conclusion that she is white. She's not. She's black, as was her daughter. Nor is she a conservative.
"I marched in the 1960s," she said, adding that she hails from a part of Virginia not far from where Nat Turner led his slave rebellion in 1831. Blacks there, Vaughn said, have a long history of not knuckling under to white racism.
"There's no one more militant than I am," she asserted. Nor fTC anyone more qualified to pull Jackson up about his misguided sympathies. But Jackson is not alone. He has virtually the entire traditional black Democratic leadership of the state of Maryland agreeing with him. And we all know that the liberal Democrats -- black and white -- have a different view of victims than the rest of us do.
For most of us, Vaughn's daughter Sherry is a victim, as is Vaughn. Police Officer Vincent J. Adolfo, whom Hunt shot twice in 1985, is a victim, as are Adolfo's father Fred, mother Hilda and widow Karen.
But for liberals of Jackson's ilk, it is Hunt who is the victim, along with the other blacks on death row, where, according to liberal dogma, there just aren't enough white guys. Hunt and other black criminals are the victims of a racist educational system, a racist criminal justice system, and, oh, just the victims of white racism in general. The fact that most, if not all, blacks have encountered some white racism without turning to criminality seems lost on the black liberal Democratic machine.
No, the machine continues to put black criminals first and their victims -- no matter what their race -- last. The relationship lacks a certain quid-pro-quo quality. Because the average black criminal returning to his community will not return the favor and swear off crime forever. More than likely, he'll take to the thug life again like a duck to water. Vaughn believes that the constant coddling of black criminals by black liberals leads to more crime.
"This is why the youngsters are the way they are," Vaughn lamented, speaking of the effect black leadership -- in Jackson's case, misleadership -- has on African-Americans. "It hinders more than it helps." Her sympathy for Hunt is minimal.
"If justice is done it might stop some of this foolishness," Vaughn said. Execution for murderers, I will say so that no one mistakes my position on this matter, is justice. Death penalty opponents will claim that life without parole is also justice. But what's to stop a lifer from murdering another prisoner or a guard? What if, heaven forfend, he escapes?
Such concerns don't trouble the liberal black Democratic machine. More blacks than whites receive the death sentence for murder in Maryland and across the nation, and the machine whines. Therefore, let no executions take place until the matter is studied and racial balancing in execution prevails.
But not all blacks belong to the liberal machine. Some of us hold the opinion that says, basically, "You're black? You committed murder? You're on death row? That's your tough luck."
The day after I talked to Vaughn, a black man called me and offered this observation:
"We don't hoot and holler and scream when a black kills a black, but when a white police officer kills a black, we're out there with picket signs."
Let Jesse Jackson and the liberal black Democratic machine continue to lament the racial imbalance on death row. I'll side with Wilhemina Vaughn and save my sympathy for the murder victims.
Gregory P. Kane's column appears on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Pub Date: 6/02/96