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Kobe Bryant will not be tried for rape. That was a close call, and not just for Kobe. All of black America dodged a bullet when what would have been the worst frenzy of media foolishness since O.J. was averted. It isn’t hard to imagine the endless pontification of pundits and supposed legal experts, complete with arguments about date rape, sex and the wealthy athlete, taboos regarding interracial sex, and theories suggesting that every famous black man is doomed to be taken out by a fiendish conspiracy.

America’s sick obsession with celebrities and the pull of group identity make for a perfect storm when the black and famous are an issue. In recent years black Americans have been far too excited because American Idol winners were black, or too upset when Omarosa stabbed Kwame in the back. The level of interest in The Apprentice was all the more ridiculous when the concern should have been that Donald Trump, obnoxious and far less successful than he claims to be, entertained America by giving out pink slips, and millions tuned in to see working people tortured by a tyrannical boss.

The continued appeal of the certifiably disturbed Bill Cosby results from the particularly noxious combination of triumphant right wing ideology and black self-hatred, but is also the latest example of the unwritten law that says blacks must support prominent blacks, even when they make statements that are both useless and mean spirited.

Cosby’s latest rant, performed at the Congressional Black Caucus annual conference, was part and parcel of his new comedy routine. He legitimized the worst, most offensive assumptions about black people, in this case telling stories about immoral black women exposing their children to abusive relationships with men who are “…lower forms of life.” Speak for yourself Cosby. Even the black caucus has abetted turning a villain into a figure of hero worship, all because he is black, successful and famous.

Rooting for Tiger on the golf course or Serena on the tennis court is as harmless and understandable as New Yorkers hoping for the Yankees or Mets to win the World Series. It is human nature to seek connections with persons sharing the same skin color, language, belief system or home town.  However, recent history should cause us to rethink the urge to become enamored of any and every colored person who allegedly makes good.

Hating Omarosa is trivial. Continuing to respect the hateful Colin Powell is not. Powell’s first major career move was to attempt covering up the atrocities committed by U.S. troops against Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. He is now just another poster child for Bush administration thuggery. Among other crimes, Powell has lied at the United Nations about the military threat posed by Iraq, destroyed Haitian democracy and threatened other small, defenseless Caribbean nations when they had the audacity to stand up to Uncle Sam in defense of Jean Bertrand Aristide. Despite all the terror Powell has wrought upon the world, most black Americans are still loath to utter a word against him. It is both sad and funny to hear otherwise intelligent people continue to make excuses for Powell.

“Maybe he is the spook who sat by the door.”

“He will probably resign.”

“He didn’t really want that job.”

Colin Powell is certainly not the victim that his fans make him out to be, but acknowledging that obvious fact would mean acknowledging something more painful, that he is as awful as his pirate brethren in the Bush administration.

Avoiding this schizophrenia is really quite simple. As Martin Luther King wisely recommended, we should judge others by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. If a white person who sweeps atrocities under the rug or makes a bogus case for war is not acceptable then a black person who does the same thing should not be acceptable either. It is insanity for critics of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to be admirers of Colin Powell when he is cut from the same cloth and shares the same frightening ideology.

It is especially important to reject Powell and his ilk if Bush should win a second term in office. There will be more Colin Powells, Condi Rices and Clarence Thomases appointed to prominent positions. We will be told that black opinion is not monolithic and that we are being unfair if we don’t swoon at the sight of fascists in black face.

The right wing elevation of black people who work against the interests of other black people requires a disciplined response. When a clone of Clarence Thomas is appointed to the bench there should not be any silly discussion about how a black conservative is preferable to a white one or arguments that Bill Clinton didn’t have as many blacks in top positions in his administration.

Black Americans must not be in the thrall of any person who means them harm, no exception can be allowed. In short, it is time to grow up. There will be no advancement in our political thinking until the Colin Powells of the world are rejected out of hand.

It will also help if Michael Jackson doesn’t go on trial either.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in   Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City.  She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at




September16 2004
Issue 105

is published every Thursday.

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