SHERRON "RON G" Rolax was only 16 at the time. Remember that. It's crucial to this tale. Rolax has been in a New Jersey youth correctional facility since 1998 on drug charges. Remember that, too.
Rolax is the young black man a grinning New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman frisked on a Camden street corner one May night in 1996. Whitman, a Republican, was on a sweep with state troopers in an attempt to cut down crime.
One trooper photographed Whitman frisking Rolax. The picture was released earlier this month, to the consternation of black America's militant, nationalist, liberal-left wing who shouted it was yet another example of how those nasty Republicans treat us poor colored folks.
The Newark Star-Ledger - New Jersey's newspaper, as its honchos call the daily - ran details of the account in its July 14 edition.
Whitman, at the request of Camden officials, authorized state troopers to help local police stop a soaring homicide rate. The Star-Ledger reported the modus operandi of the troopers.
"It was basically report-free," one trooper said of the Camden assignment, meaning officers weren't required to write accounts of their activities. "Troopers just stopped people, and if they found something illegal, they turned the person over to the Camden police."
This is an example of yet another locality giving broad powers to police and allowing them to violate civil liberties on a massive scale in order to fight crime. But what is the typical black leadership upset about? A picture, for heaven's sake! Videotape of Philadelphia police punching and kicking a suspect has generated more reaction than news that the Internal Affairs Bureau of the New York City Police Department spied on a group of black officers because they held views contrary to those of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and police Commissioner Howard Safir.
But back to the Whitman brouhaha. Troopers stopped at one corner in mid-May of 1996 and frisked a group of young black men. They urged Whitman to pose for a photograph while frisking one of them. Unwisely, she now admits, she agreed.
But there's more to this story. Here are the comments of Quayson "Q" Davis, then only 15 and one of the friskees.
"We were chillin'. We were drinking. We weren't bothering Mrs. Whitman or nothing."
But at least two of them were guilty of underage drinking and being out at about 10 p.m. Now here's a pop quiz, directed exclusively at black America's overwhelmingly liberal leadership: Would their parents have allowed them, at the age of 15 or 16, to be out on a street corner at 10 p.m. drinking?
Black leaders can get angry at Whitman and New Jersey state troopers and the police all they want, but they'd better ask why the parents of those young men fell down on the job. Parents, after all, are the first and best police officers - if they're doing their job right.
"There are more young black men in prison than in college," liberal black leaders love to whine. You'd think they'd keep such stats on the down-low. That state of affairs is not so much a reflection of the effects of institutional racism or flaws in the system or the malevolence of whites as it is of their own pathetic leadership. Who's raising young black men? Cops? The "system"? White folks? Whitman?
No, it's us. And we have to ask ourselves hard, sometimes unpleasant questions. Do a Quayson Davis or a Sherron Rolax increase their chances of going to college if, in their high school years, they spend their evenings boozing on a street corner? For all we know, they may have been frisked on a school night. (A spokeswoman for Whitman said the governor couldn't recall what night of the week the incident occurred.) How can youngsters prepare for school the next day if they're drinking a 40-ounce the night before?
The truth is they can't. And while Rolax and Davis might not have been frisked on a school night, this sobering fact remains: walk through any black urban community on a school night and you'll see children, some quite young, out way past the bedtime you had when you were a tyke.
Most black parents do an excellent job of policing their young, thus reducing the chances of an unpleasant encounter with police. But you have to wonder what the reaction was, four years ago, of the parents of Rolax and Davis to the news that their underage sons were out drinking on a street corner.
Perhaps Rolax's current residence in a juvenile detention facility tells us all we need to know.