ELYSIAN FIELDS LOST
There's an old song called Station to Station by pop-star David Bowie, in which he sings about a character referred to simply as the "thin white duke," someone who's "making sure life stings." This sounds like a pretty accurate description of what Louisiana's [thin white] Duke has tried to make life for so many Louisianians. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the name David Duke may not have been that of a dashing pop-star, but for thousands of Louisianians and hundreds of thousands of other Southerners in the U.S., it was the name of an equally dashing cult hero. And, as David Bowie was so glamorous and exciting, back when he sang that song, David Duke also seemed to be a dashing, charismatic individual who radiated with youthful vigor and a vitality and sense of purpose which constantly rejuvenated those who followed him. He was slick. It would not have surprised me a bit had he become deeply and permanently entrenched in Louisiana's political scene.
His past is littered with devout participation in white-supremacist activities. He was a neo-Nazi and, as is well-publicized, a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon (or Great Exalted Poo-Bah, or something like that). But he renounced it all and assumed a quasi born-again attitude to gain political office and recognition. It worked. His ingeniously quick wit and smooth talk never failed to pull him out of the fires started under him by people smoldering with frustration. If you were to bring up his past to him, he would just tell you that he was young and stupid then, and that he had put that all behind him for good. If you reminded him that he once paraded in front of Tulane University, dressed in Nazi garb and protesting an appearance by a Jewish guest-speaker there, he would just remind you that Jesse Jackson admitted to spitting in white people's food when working as a waiter a long time ago. Tit for tat - and he always managed to find a "tit" for any "tat."
It was always interesting to read how the area periodicals started off articles about David Duke, regardless of his standing at any given time. As a state representative in Louisiana, every article or column (or even TV news piece, for that matter) about him started off with something like, "Former Ku Klux Klan member, David Duke," and never, "Metairie State Representative, David Duke . . . ." And it was just as well, I suppose. Concerning publicity about him, I remember when he ran for senator against the incumbent, J. Bennett Johnston, in the fall of 1990. When he lost by only about an eight to ten percent margin, this proved that he was indeed a political force to be reckoned with, despite his blemished past. And he was so pleased about the election results, even though he lost! I remember all the mud-slinging that went on between them during that campaign, especially the TV commercials. One was genuinely frightening. It was for Senator Johnston, and it showed Duke in his "younger" days, looking exactly as he did when he was running for the Senate (except he was sporting a mod-looking mustache then) and giving the old Sieg Heil to a tall burning cross encircled by Klansmen who were all dressed up in their traditional Negro-lynching hoods and robes. I wouldn't doubt it if it was that commercial that made the narrow difference in the end. I can't help wondering where all those people who were standing around that burning cross on the commercial are today. Their motivating leader took their votes (if any of them where dumb enough to give him their votes), then denounced them all to gain enough credibility to get into office and be effective while there. He could not have cared less whether he was fulfilling their expectations of him. In fact, he would just as soon have denied their existence altogether after he got in. He was most merciless to those who were most loyal to him on many grounds, and they got exactly what they deserved!
To understand him, one must understand where he came from. He did not come from New Orleans, per se. He came from Metairie, Louisiana. That's in the neighboring parish to the west of New Orleans, Jefferson Parish. Metairie, as well as the rest of Jefferson Parish (they all call it "Jeff" for short), is de facto part and parcel of New Orleans. Orleans Parish (Orleans pronounced here as "Or-leenz"), Jefferson Parish and even the eastern sections of St. Charles parish all make up a solid metropolitan area. The real difference between Orleans and Jefferson Parish is the demographic make-up of each, as well as their individual political structures. Orleans Parish, which is entirely comprised of the City of New Orleans, has a typical American inner-city environment with a rotting infrastructure and a shrinking tax base. Jefferson parish is divided into several political structures - the City of Kenner, Louisiana, for example, is one of a few individually incorporated "cities" which has its own mayor, police force and other public offices and services in Jefferson. Kenner, situated about 10 to 15 miles or so west of downtown New Orleans, is where the City of New Orleans purchased land for the New Orleans International Airport. Metairie, which borders directly on the Orleans/Jefferson Parish line, falls under the Jefferson Parish government system, a type of county-based council that is legally referred to as a "police jury," and has never been an independently incorporated city. Metairie used to be exactly what the French word métairie means, that being farm. In fact, most of Jefferson Parish was once farmland. Not much interest in the area was shown by the white-majority population of post-war New Orleans, not until the battle cries of the civil rights movements of the 1960s, that is.
Gradually, blacks began to assert their rights. They brought black elected officials into power in New Orleans, and blacks increased their representation in the schools and universities, as well. Needless to say, this made most New-Orleans whites uneasy. They weren't used to seeing blacks in the same places as they were and having the same things as they had. As a result, a massive exodus from the city to the west by whites began. From this very type of action was coined the American term white flight. Metairie became a sprawling suburb then, locking out blacks with higher costs and fewer opportunities. An "us/them" mentality evolved right along with the massive movement of whites west, and it developed into a pervasive political attitude, impregnating every thought with an almost Soviet-like double consciousness. That is, what one might say in private, among friends and family, one would never say in public or out in the open. Both blacks and whites follow these unwritten rules. They may work together, they may even play together, they might live next-door to one another, but when they are among homogenous company, the word nigger springs from white lips with venomous fluency, and slurs like honky dart out of black mouths like tracer rounds from machine guns in combat!
Blacks in New Orleans eventually found themselves confined to New Orleans in various ways - not being able to make enough money to pick up and move to a better life being the predominant one. The social repression which had gone unleashed for literally centuries had formed a fossilized, permanent restraint on blacks, and they found themselves strapped to dilapidated old houses always in need of repair, large impoverished families always in need of care, and an infinite number of other demands on their time and pocketbooks which served to prevent the westward mobility that had come to represent upward mobility to them. If all these odd demands weren't present in their lives to hinder them, they could always find themselves trapped in one of the area's housing projects - big human versions of fly-tape. Blacks were getting trapped in New Orleans, and it didn't look as if they'd ever be able to escape. The new residents of Metairie found comfort in that. New Orleans became a steam-pot of discontent where crime began an exponential ascent early in the history of modern American urban decay and unrest. Eventually, the posh residential affluence associated with living in uptown New Orleans got partly displaced to Old Metairie, a section of Metairie known for its lavish architecture.
All of this political division is typical in America, but that which is found in Louisiana, particularly in and around New Orleans, it has a certain color to it, a certain quality which one would only expect to associate with a stereotypical "banana republic." I would always get a kick out of telling tourists about the New Orleans city banner. This flag is divided into three horizontal stripes, the center one being slightly wider than the two at its top and bottom. The top stripe is red, the bottom is blue and the center is white (the colors of the French flag, of course). In the larger center field of white, there are three golden fleur de lis spread out in a triangular pattern with two above and one centered below. I would tell visitors to the city that they'd be able to see the true nature of this banner if they were to stand far enough back from it so the little yellow fleurs de lis images in its center wouldn't appear too crisp and vivid because only a dull view, like that of the typical Louisianian, can reveal the meaning of New Orleans and its flag (that being that New Orleans and its surrounding territory is nothing but a mere banana republic, the fleurs de lis resembling bunches of bananas from a distance)!
But that's New Orleans, and we want to concern ourselves with David Duke's part of the GNO metro-area. Jefferson Parish, absent its various independent city incorporations, has nothing particularly unique about it, like New Orleans seems to, and it avails itself entirely of the authority and symbolisms of its parent jurisdiction, the State of Louisiana. Jefferson Parish never stood out at all in the big Louisiana picture until its people sent David Duke to the Louisiana House of Representatives. Then, even other parts of the world paid attention to it as it shouted, "Look, you bastards from up North! You can't tell us what to do! Send more militant Jewish activists, New York - the last one was delicious!" And David Duke's newly adopted political party, President Bush's GOP, tried like hell to shake him during his senatorial campaign. President Bush even made it a point to endorse another Republican candidate for the job, but it was futile. The people of Metairie's 81st electoral district were stricken and cursed with steadfast tunnel vision. They would not (they could not) be swayed from their beliefs.
"Union, Justice and Confidence" is the motto of their flag, Louisiana's state flag. The contrary could not be more true, though. "Union" is disproved beyond a doubt by all the stealth political divisiveness and the Soviet-style, double mentality. "Justice" was slaughtered a very long time ago by a certain gubernatorial dictator named Huey P. Long (and, more recently, by one of his successors to the throne, Edwin Edwards). And if you're looking for "confidence" in Louisiana, you may only be confident in the fact that the situation there is going to get worse before it ever gets any better - just when you think a fresh face with fresh ideas is going to bring about some new beginning, it turns out to be connected with some self-annihilating movement with no hope for survival on Louisiana's political velt. It seems that nearly every political movement that gains momentum in Louisiana burns out quickly because the fuel that is used in Louisiana politics is straight, undiluted greed. There are those politicians in Louisiana who are not representative of the quintessential "corrupt politician" class, and it is only fair that I make mention of them (of course, where they are to be found is another matter entirely).
Looming over the motto of the Louisianian banner is the image of a pelican - the state's symbol - feeding three chicks crowded together under her loving wingspan. The pelican might have been chosen by Louisiana's forefathers as the state's symbol because there are a lot of pelicans making their habitats along Louisiana's coasts and in its swamps and marshlands. But it was more than likely chosen because of its significance as a Christian symbolism of hope and devotion, as the area's first settlers were all devout Catholics. In Christian teachings, the pelican is portrayed as tearing open its own breast to feed its young if it has nothing to give but itself. It is very high and nobel to give of yourself like that if you have nothing else to give. This thought, as it is portrayed in Christian teaching, has been celebrated and revered by theologians, philosophers and artists alike. The French poet and playwright, Alfred de Musset (believed to be the most played writer after Molière), embraced the symbol of this thought via its Christian pelican form in his poem La Nuit de mai. But a similar application of this idea is just too high and nobel to credit to the people of Louisiana, both present and past. Their pelican, instead of tearing itself open to provide for its needy, only gives what it hasn't taken first. And if some of those who find themselves under its authority and care come to be needy for sustenance, it'll just as soon tear open the breasts of any others under it to relieve the need rather than to even think of plucking a single feather from its tail-end to use as stock in a bland soup to warm their miserable bellies. It is an evil creature, no representative of Christian virtue. But it still represents Louisiana to the extent that it is a notion contrived of in the Middle Ages, a time in which most of Louisiana seems to be stuck in every respect.
So, why were these people in Metairie so supportive of David Duke, even though it seemed as if the rest of the nation (and even other parts of the world) heaped criticism on them and questioned the quality of their collective integrity so much? Some asserted that the more they were criticized, the more defensive they became and, in turn, the more supportive they became of David Duke. That seems to smack of the most logic of any excuse I've heard. It's a very primitive and childish reaction that perfectly reflects the area population's collective mentality. They are simple people - you don't have to have Einstein's IQ to realize that simpletons react in a simple manner most of the time. What do wild animals tend to do when they're cornered? What do babies do when you scold them? Animals lash out, babies cry out, and so do Louisianians! In this way, they were united. And Duke, being a little sharper than the rest of them, was in the perfect situation to take advantage of them. He played on their unfounded and ill-informed concerns about taxes, about race relations and about other insecurities. He lulled them, tempted them - and they followed blindly into the scornful national spotlight. They sold their souls, in effect. They and their area will always be associated with Southern bigotry and hatred, a stigma it has taken the rest of Dixie over a hundred years to recover from.
It seemed at the time that their main concerns out in Metairie revolved around the us/them issue. With each stride for black equality made in Louisiana, the white supporters of David Duke perceived that they were watching the erosion of white rights. As blacks gained more footholds for asserting their rights, the perception was that whites were having to give up rights to accommodate rights exercised by blacks. David Duke and his constituents perceived affirmative action and welfare programs as things that were taking unfair advantage of them, denying qualified white applicants work in order to employ African-Americans, and needlessly spending tax money to feed and house those whom they considered to be taking advantage of the system and "getting over" at the white tax-payer's expense for reasons, they thought, which were retributively related to the history of slavery in America. To defend these and other fallacies, David Duke not only gained public office, but he also founded an organization which he thought would be the white parallel to the NAACP. He called his organization the "National Association for the Advancement of White People" (the NAAWP). Regional university branches of this organization were established and, soon after, even national chapters were installed. The intentions of the NAAWP and its members may have been as genuine as those of the NAACP, but, unfortunately for its founder and members, one thing was overlooked when it was established and, as a result, it and its members receive the stigma of being racist.
That thing which was overlooked is the obvious fact that government and industry in the United States have always been dominated by white Anglo-Saxons, and that they, as a group, already enjoy more power and prestige than any minority. This may sound like the same old rhetoric that gets dished out routinely by civil rights advocates, but there's a point to it which could probably be illustrated better in algebraic terms. Others might not agree with it, of course (mostly those who were never good with math, I suppose). On one side of the equal sign we see WHITE. Let's just give it a value of one (1) to make things easy. On the other side, we see NON-WHITE MINORITY. It is given a value less than one. It is combined with NAACP (which must be multiplied by an ever-shifting power-factor of effectiveness) in order to render the equation true. It looks like this:
The E in parentheses after the NAACP stands for a certain level of effectiveness which must be maintained in order for this equation to fulfill its designed purpose (without any or even enough effectiveness, the NAACP might as well not exist because it could serve no useful purpose!). At times (most times, it seems), this equation is actually false in the U.S. because the degree of effectiveness that the NAACP seems to have is usually negligible. In other words, when this happens, it's as if the NAACP is negated by the lack of effectiveness (it turns into a big fat zero), and then the equation has WHITE on one side and NON-WHITE MINORITY on the other, and an equal sign between them is not at all accurate or appropriate. In that instance, WHITE would be greater than NON-WHITE MINORITY. Now, let's assume, for sake of argument, that both sides are rendered equal and that the above equation is true. What happens if we add to one of the sides? It gains more, obviously! It's then one plus whatever amount you add to it, and it outweighs the other side. The equation is then made false! So, imagine the one side, NON-WHITE MINOROTY + NAACP (E), as being barely able to hold on to equality most of the time with the other side, WHITE, and then somebody goes and tries to add onto the WHITE side! If we add David Duke's NAAWP and multiply it by the greater power-factor of effectiveness already possessed by that side of the equation, the other side becomes grossly outweighed and it then looks like this:
It sends us all the way back to square-one! We might as well just go around throwing black people back into
bondage if we're going to go as far as to tolerate the addition of this new element onto the WHITE side of the
equation! This is why the NAAWP has been chastised for being racist. In this perspective, it is a potential means
for destroying any progress towards equality for blacks and other minorities in this country which has been made
via such groups as the NAACP. But this is precisely what supporters of the NAAWP can't understand, and, because
of this lack of understanding, they consider such quasi-logical arguments as mine to be personal attacks on them,
and not simply a form of reality-check for getting rid of something that's just going to make life a lot harder
and a lot more complicated for a lot of people, both black and white.
But to resist getting too warped by the fatigue from all the racial bickering (which can be found in every part of the nation), I have to concede that what is needed is an instrument for gauging equality, because if there's never any way to determine when the equation is a true statement, both sides will continue to perceive themselves as being on the losing end. How will we ever know when blacks are truly standing shoulder-to-shoulder with whites in America? Must there be an African-American elected to the Presidency? Is that one of any number of absolute prerequisites which may surface later on in time to show that there is a fair distribution of power among us? Perhaps. But so far, the fact that nearly every major metropolitan area in the U.S. has had a black mayor running things - New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Seattle, just to name a few - has hardly started to convince blacks that they, as a minority group, are making substantial progress towards empowerment. When will we know that affirmative action programs have put blacks on an even footing with whites? Are there any realistic goals or numbers to match the quotas that have been used as guidelines for hiring blacks? And how do we assure some whites, such as those who used to support David Duke in Louisiana, and those blacks who are working hard and paying honest taxes too, that tax money is not being spent to support those who may be perfectly capable of securing employment and providing for themselves responsibly (blacks, whites and everybody else)? I think that it is sufficient, for now, that all sides simply stop whatever overtures of racial discrimination they may be making in one another's direction. If a day ever comes that we never see things like "NIGGERS SUCK" scrawled on bathroom walls, and we never hear things like "It's a black thing - you wouldn't understand . . . ," then I think we could safely presume that substantial progress is being made. Until then, we must rely on what is at hand - the political system.
Of course, there are no easy answers. I've noticed, though, that quick-fix answers like the NAAWP seem to come about with very little contemplation. This is a sign of impatient minds at work and in control of all of our lives, conditioned by the video-era spawned instant-gratification syndrome which so many of us seem to be falling victim to more and more these days. Things are getting much more complicated quicker as time progresses and as we, as a species, evolve. Today's college degree is yesterday's high school diploma in many respects. Sociologists are showing that it takes longer now for Westerners to mature and to get their lives started as independent adults. It seems like today's 21-year-old is yesterday's 18-year-old. There are probably countless socio-psychological reasons to account for this apparent lag in Westerners' development, but none have been brought clearly into focus so that we may be able to recognize and to avoid dangerous quick-thinking and other forms of intellectual quicksand that may happen to be promoted by immature-minded, misguided, charismatic individuals like Louisiana's thin white Duke. I remember something we used to say in the army - a list of the three most dangerous things in the army: 1) a junior lieutenant with a map (because they always think they know so much about map-reading, especially when they come fresh right out of officer training, but usually end up getting lost); 2) a buck-sergeant with a clipboard (because they're the newest kind of sergeant and they usually let the power go to their heads for a long time after they get their stripes), and; 3) a private with ideas (because they're brand new to it all and don't know squat, even though they think they've got all the answers on how to do everything better than the sergeants and officers). This old army saying can be translated into a civilian version, citing the three most dangerous things in life: 1) a tourist with a map (especially male tourists); 2) a cop with a clipboard, and; 3) a teenager with ideas!
Of course, David Duke was no teenager when he ran for political office, but he was certainly what I would call a young thinker (not that there aren't some brilliant young minds in the world today, but he was certainly not one of them). He would probably be quick to point out that Malcom X was about as young as he when he advocated violence against the white establishment in this country ("By any means necessary" - but Duke would never say anything about the racial peace and harmony that Malcom X later advocated after he took the name of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz when he finally realized that all racism is evil). He would also point out how young Louis Ferrakhan was when he started up with his violent rhetoric. I wouldn't argue about that. I would point out, however, that Martin Luther King, Junior was a very mature-minded, responsible individual who wasn't much older when he began bringing his philosophies to light. To that, Duke would most probably respond, "So am I!" He would insist on the rationality of the reasons for what he and his followers have done, but those would be reasons only as they could understand them, not reasons generally agreed upon by anybody else.
Narrowly focused, ego-centric reasons are all we really value anymore. There seems to be no such thing as honor anymore, no sense of duty to recognize one another's rights. We have become so selfish in the West. There is also no longer much art in living; just survival, it seems. There exist no sacrifices or justly logical reasons for not doing things, even if some of the things we do hurt others or infringe on the rights and comfort of others. We don't seem to care anymore, just as long as we get what we want - not even so much as what we need, but simply what we desire. The animal in us is really starting to show. In the United States, it's crippling us as far as international competition goes, and it's holding us back from making the great strides for which we've always enjoyed prestige in the world. When one wonders how the Japanese have managed to pull so far ahead of the U.S. in electronics and automobile manufacturing, one has to take into consideration their domestic tranquillity (or at least what we perceive to be their domestic tranquillity) which seems to spring from the Japanese values concerning doing what's right towards each other. Germany is another one of those nations which pulled out ahead of America economically and socially. There, they used to have domestic tranquillity before what was once East Germany came aboard and started to rock the boat with social and economic unrest (which led to race problems). The point is, Americans need to learn to handle their socio-economic and race problems as efficiently as they used to manufacture cars and transistor radios. In fact, if some of us were really as smart as we used to be, we'd found a new industry on making and maintaining social harmony. If something (anything) isn't done sooner, rather than later, about these problems, we will hang ourselves - blacks, whites, Hispanics - every group and class will get flushed down life's toilet, and the country will belong to nobody.
To this, some blacks and non-white minority members might say, "Flush it! It's not getting me anywhere!" or, "Let it go to hell - it's not really my country!" So is it justified to reply, as so many have, that those who do not wish to stay are free to leave and go where they may? Take African-Americans, for example. If some are discontented with being American because of their ancestors' ascent from slavery, and they find satisfaction in revering the African continent as truly their own, yet they are too insecure to leave America, the place which they've come to be most familiar with, must they not forget that there exists an option in the form of a nation on the northwestern coast of Africa which was founded in part with the help of a former U.S. President for the purpose of providing freed American slaves an African home to return to if they so desired? It is called Liberia. Its capital is named Monrovia (after the U.S. President who helped to establish the new nation, James Monroe). English is the official language spoken there, and its standard of living used to rival that of the U.S. In fact, their official currency is the U.S. dollar. Political power there rests almost entirely in the hands of the Americo-Liberian class which evolved from the freed American slaves who first founded it. Things there are things very much American, from the style of automobile license plates used to the types of music listened to. African-Americans are generally welcomed there with open arms. So, along these lines, for those African-Americans, like Louis Ferrekhan, who used to advocate sectioning off a part of the U.S. to form a quasi-American republic for blacks, would it do to direct them to the nearest Liberian Consulate (or to the Liberian Embassy) to get their immigration papers promptly started? And for those Hispanic-Americans who are not happy in the U.S., hate it or think they'd be better off someplace else, should they be encouraged to emigrate to Spain or a Latin American country if they can? Would the same go for any race or ethnic group (if you don't like America, leave it if you can!)? Is it just that simple? Americans do in fact emigrate to other countries every so often, so it's no excuse for not leaving if you're not happy or if you think you can make it better anywhere else - that much is definitely true!
But I don't think that this encompasses the real issue - it's not about the ability or need to leave America, but the desire to do so. I think the bottom line is that there aren't too many among us - black, white, Hispanic or whatever - who really want to leave the country, despite their grievances with it. And some, like Native Americans, have no other place to go back to! It is a fine place to call home, and I think all the complaints arise from people's desires to try to improve it for everybody to live and grow peaceably together in, despite the shameful messes which were made in the past. Although America's history is tainted by blemishes like the institution of slavery up until the end of the Civil War, and the gross violation of minority civil rights called segregation which was supposed to come to a de jure end in the late 1960s, it's important to keep in mind that all that, for the most-part, is history and that there are elements of the majority-class in this country who will always continue to try to correct the fallout of these past mistakes, even in the face of periodic political trends which lean heavily to the contrary, and even though they themselves are not responsible for the historical injustices committed.
And what should we say to those who feel as if they are being held responsible and, therefore, penalized for their ancestors' actions towards blacks and other minorities in America? Should they realize that this is an unrealistic and irrational suspicion? Of course, David Duke and his followers have never been required to give up rights in order to accommodate more rights for blacks. This would be hypocritically self-annihilating and the means would defeat the very end sought if such a practice was actually being employed. An understanding must be secured of the whole picture by everybody involved. Otherwise, we will continue to stagnate forever.
Progress is the only path out of this stagnation. Unfortunately for some, it is measured in terms of both good and bad. For African-Americans to make progress, progress as it is interpreted by those like David Duke (a representative of the power structure that can create a real hindrance to minority progress in American society), they must do what black leaders have been telling them all along: they must work harder than the majority-class to gain as much as it has. This, of course, is grossly unfair. Unfortunately, nobody ever said that life is fair (as the old saying goes). Whether you were brought into the world as a Caucasian, or whether you found out one day that you're black and, therefore, it is yours to inherit all that is socially unjust in America, you must make do with what you have, and you must accept what you are. In the U.S., that means you do have to produce more in order to receive an "equal" share, if you're other than an Anglo-Saxon male. In America, that means you will be watched much more closely if you ever aspire to any position of power or influence, and, in that case, you will serve as a basis for judging all others like you - your actions will condone or condemn a whole class of people for as long as it takes to get another such influential figure from your group into the spotlight to correct or modify any impressions of mistake that you may leave behind.
Here's a couple of examples of what I mean. Take the ordeal which occurred with former Washington, D.C. mayor, Marion Barry. Here was a minority man who was entrusted with great influence and responsibility in our nation's capital. He was videotaped by law enforcement officials entertaining an infidel, extramarital relationship with a girl in a hotel room while appearing to partake in an illegal substance. Now, this girl was an old girlfriend of the mayor's who was working with the sting operation that shot the film, and she verified that he was indeed taking the controlled substance, cocaine. All-in-all, it was very convincing evidence that was shown to the whole nation, courtesy of the national news media, and Barry quickly fell from grace. There were those in the black community who rallied to the mayor's side, saying that it was a set-up designed with the intent of specifically sabotaging the reputation of a high-profile, black leader. I agree that this possibility exists, but it is no excuse, nonetheless. This man should have been hyper-sensitive to his very special status, knowing that he would be a prime target for groups, like Duke's, who would relish seeing him taken down. He should have realized just how negligent it was for him to go to a hotel room with an old girlfriend. He was careless where he should have reasonably understood that he was allowing himself to be put in a compromising situation, and he paid for his sloppy conduct.
No, David Duke's kind of people never miss when an African-American in a position of authority which has traditionally been filled by whites gets national attention for reasons which are other-than-honorable. Such was also the scandal behind the love affair of Atlanta's former Catholic Archbishop, Eugene Marino, a black man who had a love affair which produced children, and who was shamefully cast out of the Catholic Hierarchy and thrown into the spotlight of the national news media. These sorts of things, even though they comprise an inaccurate accountability of blacks in power because of the low frequency of blacks there, tell David Duke and those like him that blacks cannot yet be fully trusted to competently carry out the duties required of authoritative positions in the dominating white power structure. Accomplishments by great African-American leaders, like U.S. Secretary of State, and former Army General (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, no less), Collen Powell, a man who managed to rise up out of the depression suffered by minorities in the Northeast (despite the overwhelming odds against it) to achieve one of the highest posts in the U.S. government are quashed in the opinions of people like David Duke in the face of circumstances like those that surround scandals such as the ones involving Marion Barry and Eugene Marino. Absolute proof of suitability - the kind that can only be achieved through near-perfection of character and flawless integrity - is what David's flock will require before they ever elect blacks to serve in positions of even moderate authority and responsibility in government and industry.
Given this attitude then, perhaps we might be able to rely on progress made by blacks outside the U.S. to serve as examples for illustrating the potential of blacks inside it. Would that be a useful tactic in combating the irrationalities entertained by the Duke-class of Americans? Given the unfair circumstances of the poorer economies of most sovereign black nations in Africa and the Caribbean, it would probably be difficult. We could point out the American-like economy and standard of living in countries like Senegal in Africa, and St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, but it would hardly make a difference in light of the more salient goings-on in countries like Ethiopia and Haiti, where it appears as if selfish military dictators and juntas will always-prevail and have their ways with the people and the economies of those nations. In truth, it appears as if black Americans get very little help indeed from pointing to outside examples of black progress, even though it is being made. I suppose our news media don't help much, either. An example of this was when Ethiopia's feared hard-line Marxist president, Mengistu Haile Nariam, resigned his position and fled into exile as rebel forces converged on his capital in the latter part of the 1980s. Instead of highlighting the nature of those who forced him out, and telling us whether or not their motives were designed around democratic ideals, our news coverage tended to emphasize only the wicked, selfish character of the ousted president, and all the bedlam that was caused by the rebels as they toppled him - nothing positive was really brought to light from what I, as well as others, perceived to be a very positive step forward in that country. But even if positive steps were to be accurately reflected by our news media, people like David Duke would still focus selectively on the bad qualities. They would always see only the dictators and wrongdoers, and never the ones doing good.