The people who were once considered Black leaders have reached their collective nadir. Ken Blackwell, Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, has written election rules so draconian that anyone who helps another register to vote risks the possibility of jail time.
Chicago Alderwoman Emma Mitts has sided with Wal-Mart in opposing living wages for her constituents. Andrew Young supports ID requirements that will deny Black voters in Georgia their right to the ballot.
And now, Black attorneys testify on behalf of White people who commit hate crimes.
Randall Kennedy is a Black law professor at Harvard University. He is best known for his book Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.
His former colleague at Harvard, Derrick Bell, wrote presciently about Kennedy in 1998. Bell taught a course called, "Race, Racism and American Law", and gave Kennedy his blessing to continue teaching it when he returned from a visiting professorship.
"It was a decision I came to regret," Bell wrote. "Kennedy retained the course name but dropped its advocacy orientation. Disgruntled students complained that Kennedy spent more time challenging and even denigrating civil rights positions than he did analyzing the continuing practices and policies of discrimination that made those policies, whatever their shortcomings, necessary."
Bell could not have imagined how low Kennedy would sink.
On June 29, 2005, Nicholas Minucci, who is White, attacked Glenn Moore, who is Black, in Queens, New York. While beating Moore in the head, Minucci literally added insult to injury by calling him "nigger."
Minucci contends that he thought Moore was about to commit a crime, and Moore does admit that he was planning to steal a car that night. Minucci's other defense is that the word "nigger" isn't so bad. He heard Black people use it, he heard it in songs and music videos and concluded that it was no longer offensive.
The use of a racial epithet in the commission of a crime turns it into a hate crime by definition. Minucci's freedom depends on making the case that he didn't know he was using a slur.
Enter Randall Kennedy. Minucci's defense attorney, Albert Gaudelli, called Kennedy and asked him to testify for the defense.
"The word is a complex word. It has many meanings," the law professor opined. And to be fair, there are Black people who argue that the word is harmless among friends. But Kennedy is, hopefully, the only Black person who would argue that a White person using the word "nigger" while simultaneously hitting a Black person in the head with a baseball bat was not committing a hate crime.
Kennedy obviously doesn't care about Black people and his intentions are the worst. He is an opportunist with all of the establishment's top credentials — a very dangerous enemy indeed.
The jury of five Blacks, four Whites and three Latinos had better sense than Kennedy or Jenkins. They found Minucci guilty of second-degree assault as a hate crime. He faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on July 15.
The conviction was not Minucci's first in a bias-related incident. On Sept. 11, 2001, Minucci fired a paint ball at a Sikh temple while screaming, "F**king Indians." Does Kennedy have a defense for that incident as well?
There is a greater tragedy that Kennedy and others like him have created. He didn't become an Ivy League graduate and Rhodes Scholar on his own. Someone picked cotton in the South or sugar cane in the Caribbean to help the family survive and prosper. Someone worked three jobs to ensure success in the family and in the race.
If it is true that anyone rolls in a grave, it is certainly true of Kennedy's ancestors. If they had known how their descendant would turn out they would have worked only one job at a time and stayed out of cotton fields. Their blood, sweat and tears were for naught.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly on www.blackcommentator.com.