It took a while, but newly elected Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony Williams finally stood up to the forces of idiocy running rampant through the local government of our nation's capital. He offered David Howard his job back.
Howard headed the district's Office of the Public Advocate, a position he vacated amid a swirl of rumors that he had used the dreaded N-word to a couple of black colleagues. The word Howard used was, in fact, "niggardly," which is of Scandinavian origin and means miserly and stingy.
Wednesday, Williams issued his second news release on the issue. The first, which hit the wires on Jan. 26, said he had accepted Howard's resignation, which "was prompted by reports that [Howard] had made an inappropriate racial comment."
In the second statement, Williams said he had met with Howard and urged him to withdraw his resignation.
"I believe I acted too hastily," Williams confessed about accepting Howard's resignation.
What inspired this change of heart in Williams? Was he suddenly afflicted with the notion that governing by rumor is not a particularly effective mayoral tool? The hoots of derision in the press? The chants of "Anthony Williams is a revolting wuss!" reverberating through the streets of the nation's capital?
It matters little. What's important is that common sense prevailed, which happens rarely in the 1990s -- especially in matters of race. Black Americans would do well to learn from this incident. And the most sobering lesson is this: We should cut the nonsense and abandon our culture of complaint.
In the months leading up to the pathetic "niggardly" debacle, we had a group of blacks working themselves into a frenzy over a television show, "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer," which was so awful it ran only briefly on the UPN network. Then, another group of blacks whined that Fox network's "The PJ's" -- produced by Eddie Murphy -- portrayed blacks who live in the projects too negatively. Where are these protesters when we need folks to speak out on what is truly a racial crisis: the alarming numbers of black children and teens who seriously believe a commitment to learning and academic achievement is a white thing?
Let's look at it another way: What portrays blacks in a more negative light, "The PJ's" and "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer" or the dismal academic performance of black pupils in all too many of our schools?
Officials at Fox and UPN treated the protesters too kindly. Had I been in their shoes, I would have brought the protesters in, sat them down, swung back in my chair and propped my feet on my desk. Then I would have given them the speech.
"You dare come here and complain about positive images after you let Oprah Winfrey's brilliant 'Beloved' die at the box office? You never support the positive and always complain about the negative. I'll make note of your protest, but be aware I realize you speak only for yourselves, not for all members of your race."
Then I'd have told them to get the hell out of my office.
To those Washington blacks who feel Williams isn't "black enough" to be mayor, I'll simply say, "Get the hell out of your dream world." Just what does "black enough" mean? And who decides who's "black enough" and who isn't?
Are these folks suggesting that Williams is not being black because he makes appointments based on ability and not race? If that's the case, Williams is in darned good company. Toussaint L'Ouverture, the man who led Haiti's slave revolt and ruled the island in the late 18th century, appointed people to government positions based on their talent, not their color. He did this while his contemporary further to the north, that revolting bigot Thomas Jefferson, preached frequently about the racial inferiority of blacks.
The very notion of this African-American or that one not being "black enough" betrays a mind-set that is devoted to a perverse sense of racial loyalty. And racial loyalty has its pitfalls. A swaggering ex-corporal in the German army and some of his buddies formed a political party based on it. They came to power preaching it and led their country into a world war fervently believing in it.
Then they got their asses kicked.
Pub Date: 2/06/99