For blacks, forgiving Clinton is a delusion

October 28, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

IT'S THREE DAYS before Halloween - a time when I should be thinking about dressing up like the Mummy or the Wolfman and scaring the heck out of my grandsons. But I'm still in a nasty mood. Some things still bug me, but I'll try to address only one.

I might as well choose the most infuriating: the continued devotion of all too many blacks to President Clinton, 1998's candidate for the man most in need of a chastity jockstrap. The latest offender is comedian Chris Rock, who is usually wise on most other subjects.

But he, like other African-Americans, has lost it on the Clinton matter. On a recent show, Rock debated conservative Los Angeles talk-show host Larry Elder. Perhaps "debated" is not quite the word. Elder reasonably and calmly tried to present the case against Clinton - as if that could be done within a 30-minute show. Rock interrupted Elder at every opportunity. The comedian stopped just short of saying to Elder, "Don't you bad-mouth Marse Clinton. He's been good to us colored folks."

Rock, alas, is not alone. His attitude is part of an ever-expanding mood among Afro-Americana, one that despises what those mean old right-wing white boys are trying to do to poor Marse Clinton. Blacks are against this, of course. We've forgiven him.

For weeks now, black Americans have been walking around patting ourselves on the back, crowing about our capacity to forgive. It's more like our capacity for self-delusion. If we're so forgiving, why haven't we forgiven Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas yet?

No black American in history has been the target of such vehemence and invective as Thomas. But forgiving him is clearly not on the African-American agenda.

Clinton was having sex in the White House when he was supposed to be handling the nation's business. He is accused of perjury and obstruction of justice. His administration has been accused of altering American foreign policy for a buck. He wimped out when those same mean old white boys went after Lani Guinier - a nominee for the Clinton administration's top civil rights post - and Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. For that and more we've forgiven him.

Thomas' sin, in the eyes of black America, is far greater. He's against affirmative action, an affront that puts him right down there on the morality scale with the Romans who crucified Jesus. Thomas' other affront is having the audacity not to go along with the herd mentality afflicting African-Americans. He actually has his own mind. He's a threat.

So there'll be no forgiveness for Thomas. Black folks - judging by their votes in the 1992 and 1996 elections - genuinely like Clinton. Thus we forgive him. Apparently we don't like Thomas, so we won't forgive him.

But in our paroxysm of self-congratulation over how forgiving we are, we had best take heed of two things. In strict theological terms, forgiveness is for everybody. You can't pick and choose whom you will forgive and whom you won't. And the true measure of forgiveness is forgiving those you don't like. Forgiving someone you like or who has done something for you amounts to no forgiveness at all.

Those blacks inclined to forgive Clinton can at least get in touch with their history, the better to give the Horny One some advice. Those who defend Clinton claim what he did is the nature of the male. Perhaps they should read Myrlie Evers-Williams' book "For Us, the Living" - the story of Evers-Williams' marriage to Medgar Evers, the Mississippi state field secretary of the NAACP until his assassination in 1963.

When Evers took the job as head of the Mississippi NAACP, he opened up an office in Jackson. He hired his wife, Evers-Williams, as his secretary. He kept a strict rule - and had Evers-Williams observe it - that in the office he wasn't Medgar, but Mr. Evers. She wasn't Myrlie, she was Mrs. Evers.

One day while they were alone, Evers-Williams sat on Evers' lap as a gesture of spousal affection. Evers looked at her as though she were out of her mind and objected.

"But we're married!" Evers-Williams protested. Evers replied that it didn't matter. The decorum and professionalism of the office would be maintained at all times.

Someone should pass along Evers-Williams' book to the man ensconced in the White House and advise him to learn how a real man acts. But it's a safe bet Clinton's surging hormones won't allow him to read it.

Pub Date: 10/28/98

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