Extending the olive branch to some aggrieved Arkansans

March 18, 2001|By Gregory Kane

I HAVE COMMITTED a grievous sin against the people of Arkansas.

Exactly four weeks ago, I wrote a column about our former president, one William Jefferson "Hide-the-womenfolk-and-silverware-when-he-comes-a'callin'" Clinton and his proposal to move his office to New York City's predominantly black Harlem. I advised the people of Harlem to "boot this moral pariah back to Arkansas where he belongs."

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reprinted the column about a week later. Several Arkansans read it and were with me until that final sentence.

"We don't want him back," one disgruntled Arkansas woman told me when she called.

Others wrote letters. Vivian Spigner of Ashdown, Ark., had this to say:

"I just read an editorial by you in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette dated Saturday, Feb. 24, 2001. I agreed wholeheartedly until the final two paragraphs. ... I believe in trying to find something good in every situation. My comment when dear Billy and Hilly were elected president was `Thank God they're out of Arkansas!' Now you say, `boot this moral pariah back to Arkansas where he belongs.' [That's Spigner's emphasis, not mine.] As Shakespeare said, `Surely you jest!' Don't blame Arkansas for your problems. Remember, we only had six electoral votes."

Bernadine Andrews of Little Rock wrote:

"Some of us never voted for Clinton in any of his campaigns, and we are very grateful to the people of the northeast section of our country. Why? Because we will never have to contend with their lifestyle again."

Hmmm. It looks like for eight years the country's curse was Arkansas' blessing.

On a similar front, Harry Bennett of Baltimore - Mount Street near North Avenue, to be exact, which means he lives in my old stomping grounds - wrote to take me to task for my taking NAACP board Chairman Julian Bond to task in a March 7 column.

"NAACP President Kweisi Mfume is a diplomatic politician. It is expected and accepted that he would take a peaceful and conciliatory attitude. Free speech. Julian Bond has the right to speak his mind. You are critical of him for being outspoken. I criticize him for being timid in his remarks. Somebody needs to tell it like it is!"

What were Bond's "timid" remarks Bennett referred to? Bond accused President Bush of dividing the country, of appointing Cabinet officials from "the Taliban wing" of the Republican Party, and said some of the appointees had a "canine devotion" to the Confederacy.

Bond didn't make those remarks on his own behalf. He presented them as the official position of the NAACP, an organization that has Mfume as the president, CEO and official spokesman. If Bond wants to pop off as a private citizen, fine. But he has no right presenting himself as the spokesman for those NAACP members who disagree with his position.

This letter came from an unnamed writer - writers of letters such as these seldom identify themselves:

"If [State's Attorney Patricia] Jessamy were white and [Mayor Martin] O'Malley black, who would you go after and who would you defend?"

Uh, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, when City Comptroller Joan Pratt (black) fired real estate officer Tony Ambridge (white), I went after Pratt and defended Ambridge. Next stupid question, please.

"If Eric Stennett was white and acquitted of causing the death of black Officer Kevon Gavin would there have been the usual cries from the black community of `outrage'?"

But Stennett isn't white, so the question is moot. Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, clearly on a roll, rambled on.

"Are you and blacks interested in justice? This is racist, this is bias! You shoot us, you rape us, you beat us, you mug us, you stab us and you want us to act like nothing is different? Prejudice toward black people is now toward black behavior, skin color is now the `marker.'"

It sounds suspiciously like someone stole Mr. or Ms. Anonymous' Ku Klux Klan hood and robe and he or she is taking it out on all blacks, but for the record, exactly when has the color of black people's skin not been a "marker"? But wait, there's more.

"As long as black behavior is running amok, bigotry will continue! People will never get past the fear of violence. Isn't it time that blacks clean up their own house and stop blaming everything on everybody else?"

Yes, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous. It is time for blacks to "clean up our own house," just as it's time for white people to rid themselves of bigots of your ilk. You probably don't see yourself that way, of course. In your eyes, you're the fairest, most enlightened, nonracist person in America. But if the Klan hood fits, you should wear it, and proudly. Nothing in your rhetoric is different from the standard KKK sayings of years past.

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