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Bearing Witness

By Kathy Y. Wilson · May 9th, 2002 · Your Negro Tour Guide
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In my weariness I can see it. Things are soon to get ugly. Attorney Kenneth Lawson and Angela Leisure filed a federal lawsuit April 30 against Steve Reece, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece and James Washington, owner of Washington Limousine Service. The suit claims the vice mayor and her father illegally conspired to intimidate political foes and enlisted Washington as an "agent" in their alleged dealings, including attempts to convince Leisure to drop Lawson as her attorney.

That, the suit claims, would put Leisure on a faster settlement track in her lawsuit against the city in the death of her son, Timothy Thomas.

Things are moving curvilinearly. This doesn't happen often in life, but soon two points will intersect.

When I wrote Get Back (issue of April 18-24) expressing my displeasure over the vice mayor's metamorphosis from maverick to little girl lost, I was speaking my mind and minding my own business. Wrong.

As reported in CityBeat (see Reece's Pieces issue of May 2-8, and this week's follow-up story), the vice mayor paid our offices a visit, telling my boss April 17 she'd send firefighters to convince me to stop criticizing her. She said she'd previously used the same tactic to silence another critic. What?

This is crucial. It speaks to issues of class and character. Ours and hers.

Think about this: The alleged suit-worthy behavior of the Reeces and Washington isn't news. What makes it titillating fodder for the city's radio talk shows is that the vice mayor led us to believe her reality was something else.

Now we're confused because she's been accused of switch-hitting. But other folks have done it since the dawn of time.

Reece's alleged behavior -- including her paternalistic I'm-telling-your-daddy-on-you confrontation with my boss -- is a bad black puppet show that's imitative of the white male power structure to which she begs inclusion. Her alleged conduct -- alleged because she's yet to contact me directly -- squishes black ink into the buttermilk.

She pooh-poohed the way white boys have been conducting business but then allegedly cashed in her daddy's favor chips and threw around her perceived political heft. It doesn't make it right. It merely makes it a bad imitation of life.

You've heard of dumbing down? I call this niggering down. It's some kind of skewed SAT word association equation.

It's like Negroes crashing the Kentucky Derby -- not to attend the races but to drink, smoke weed and have forgettable sex. It's Freaknik as the ghetto home version of MTV's Spring Break. It's why we never get invited to the big dance except to clean up afterward.

More importantly, it's a litmus test for our collective character.

People all over town are singing in the comeuppance chorus, calling for the vice mayor's head. Others are choosing the Reeces' side and defending good Negroes who never hurt anyone.

I wish this were as easy as a popularity contest, but it's not. It's a matter of right and wrong, and, while that sounds like absolutism, it's actually more complicated.

Truth is, the truth doesn't require us. It doesn't need nor does it ask for any of our self-serving assistance, because truth always wins out in the end whether or not we decide to tell it.

In journalism, we say, "Let people talk long enough and eventually they'll tell the truth on themselves." The Reeces don't need our help.

If they're due to come undone, I think they've got it covered. And if you think I'm taking the high road, you're right.

It doesn't make me soft, arrogant, naive, inflammatory or beyond reproach. It makes me the one who wrote "Get Back" in the first place. It makes me the one who, according to many of you, voiced some long-held but long-silent sentiments about a once-popular and now maligned public servant.

Since the column, the lawsuit and the CityBeat story detailing the vice mayor's behavior, my phone rings non-stop, e-mails trickle in and even letters appear -- all in support of "Get Back." I appreciate those acknowledgements and the words of support.

But let's be clear: Don't look for me to validate your criticisms and don't expect to see me draped in the robes of spokeswoman for the race. I've never laid claims to that moniker, and I never will. Anyone claiming as much hasn't talked directly to me about who I am.

Being spokeswoman would mean Negroes were organized, like a non-profit organization. We all know what a fallacy that is.

It'd also mean having to answer to someone, and that usually means being manipulated. Manipulation sucks. Autonomy works for me.

I work for CityBeat. And we call it like we see it.



Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.
 
 
 
 

 

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