The Conviction of Kwame Kilpatrick
by Steven Malik Shelton
On March 11, the former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, was found guilty of 23 federal charges that include extortion, bribery and racketeering and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison Kilpatrick’s prosecution, conviction and sentencing raises several issues about America’s so-called criminal justice system. The first is its inherent tendency to selectively arrest and prosecute individuals from specific racial or ethnic groups. This is not a random or happenstance phenomenon but is part of a systemic strategy to cull targeted populations and/or to take down high profile individuals from these groups that have offended the Caucasian power structure in some way or who are simply considered advantageous to humiliate and make an example of.
It is a system that has been (and is) especially brutal and egregious as it relates to Black people who are traditionally the eternal scapegoat and lightning rod for America’s fears, hatred, anger and greed. Sadly, targeting Black people for special mistreatment and marginalization is embedded within the very heartbeat of the nation and has its roots in the institution of chattel slavery and the upheavals during the Reconstruction period.
Thus the indictment of Kwame Kilpatrick in the local, state and (more recently) the federal courts must be viewed within the context of the history of Black people in America, and its institutions of White supremacy that give it structure, as well as the racist and psychopathic personalities that are at its helm in all areas of human endeavor and inter-action.
Make no mistake about it; there is probably no area of government actively sanctioned in America as corrupt as its judicial system. It is a system that has inflicted catastrophic hurt and misery on millions of poor and Black people since its inception.
One would have to suffer from amnesia or a severe form of delusion to be unaware of the system of racial bias that permeates America’s courts and law enforcement arms and apparatus.
It is ironic that Kilpatrick is convicted of corruption while holding the relatively minor and insignificant position of Mayor of a urban metropolis that (although once great) has been declining economically since the 1950’s because of dis-investment by the steel and auto industry, while America’s office holders on the national political stage have proven themselves to be notoriously corrupt and (not only that) the political system itself is set up and structured to allow corruption in the form of the peddling of political favors and the buying of influence to the highest bidders.
It is reasonable to conclude that a system of jurisprudence that either ignores or winks at corruption by office holders who are stooges of the corporate elite, while using the power, expertise and resources of government prosecutorial agencies to either invent, exaggerate or go on a fishing expedition to indict and convict individuals that have offended the elite or fallen out of favor with them is a system that is inherently corrupt and infinitely more criminal than the (usually) low level government official it is targeting. The term crime itself, as defined and acted upon in America is subjective, enabling one group’s criminal to indeed be another’s hero, benefactor or liberator.
Crimes committed (or alleged) by people in political office are even more subjective because such offences typically occur over a long period of months or years and are concealed beneath the veneer of authority and respect that the office generates. The mainstream corporate-controlled media is also utilized to either whip up public frenzy, or to dumb down the people, to distract them and to help them forget. Yet, if the corporate elite is angry enough or desperate enough, then the full force of their power will be unleashed against the stubborn or the renegade office holder. And the media will shine a spotlight on the targeted person giving him no respite and no rest from scrutiny and negative suggestion.
With all the hoopla directed at Kilpatrick, many have forgotten about Ayanna’s Jones killer, Detroit policeman, Joseph Weekly and how criminal proceedings against him have moved at a snail’s pace. To take the life of a child is an extremely odious crime against humanity. Weekly’s actions when he fired a bullet through the neck of a 7 year old girl and the accounts of eyewitnesses, as well as the reports by others of his earlier misconduct while under color of authority as a policeman are outrageous. Yet, the same local media that hounded Kilpatrick almost every day for years is either absent, uncritical or unconcerned about the circumstances that put a bullet from a cop’s service handgun through the body of an innocent child while she slept peacefully on her parents living room sofa.
If we are truly to be the denizens and guardians of justice, we must ask (and answer) the question; how can we sit with folded hands and pretend to be oblivious of the flagrant and systemic imbalance and injustice in America’s law enforcement and court institutions?
The projection of America’s perennial boogeyman and scapegoat (the Black man) as the embodiment of crime and malfeasance is by design and serves a special need in the Caucasian-American psyche. It allows him to hide from his own crimes while justifying his inhumane policies and programs against the people of color that he subjugates.
Politics and the activities therein have always been a very dirty business and the public perception of the offences Kilpatrick has been indicted and convicted of can change immeasurably depending on the lens with which the public is conditioned to view them. And thus incidents (either fabricated or factual) can be perceived as either criminal or as the normal workings of politics (or ignored completely) depending on the intent and desires of the power brokers and the gatekeepers.
In reality, Kwame Kilpatrick, although a former mayor and state representative, was limited by and beholden to America’s centuries old system of White political and economic supremacy. And he could not move many inches from the policies and the legal and political restraints specifically designed to constrain and to circumvent him.
To be sure, Black political power has never proven to be the tool of empowerment that many African Americans envisioned and hoped it would be. Political power by its very structured relationship with finance must be rooted in economic power. Finance has always been an integral and crucial element of electoral politics in America, and Black people who lack economic leverage in America because of either poverty or disunity or both are regulated to the lowest economic rung. Thus we find that even when the candidate that they voted for is elected into office, they lack the power to make him respond to their needs, wants and desires.
The office holder usually has been purchased by wealthy corporate conglomerates and seduced by an army of high-powered lawyer/representatives and lobbyists.
Kilpatrick’s real crime was not that he bent (or even broke) the laws, but that he was considered too big, too Black, and too arrogant and was ostracized when he refused to be complicit in many of the elite sectors designs and demands. Specifically Kilpatrick refused to allow outsiders and banksters to take control of Detroit’s fully funded 6 or 7 billion dollar pension fund. His crime was that he transferred some of the city’s accounts from Caucasian banks to the only Black owned and operated bank in the city-First Independent Bank. He also raised the ire and animosity of Whites and powerful Jews when he hosted Nation of Islam’s controversial leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan’s annual Saviors Day commemoration at Ford Field in downtown Detroit.
In essence, Kilpatrick’s offences had little to do with graft, bribery or spousal infidelity; he was forced out because he was perceived to be a threat and impediment to the interests of powerful Caucasian manipulators, shot callers and elitists and taken down for not conceding and acquiescing to their agenda to ravish the city of its most valuable and priceless assets, among them the water and sewage system, Belle Isle, Cobo Hall, and valuable land along the city’s international riverfront. And according one inside source, Kilpatrick also ruffled some feathers by working diligently to reduce the outrageous and usurious rates inflicted on the residents of the city of Detroit by unscrupulous and predatory banks and insurance companies.
It is a Euro/ American tradition that any Black man who exercises even the slightest autonomy and independent thinking from the behavior pattern and mind-set sanctioned and approved by the Caucasian power structure, must be vilified and attacked and the message sent that regardless of the Black man’s status in the White world, he is nevertheless still vulnerable and under the control of Caucasians.
Many writers and analysts have emphasized that Kilpatrick was convicted of 23 federal counts and this is proof that he is a thief and miscreant. He may indeed be guilty of some of the charges (or all of them). And he could be totally innocent of most of them, or all. Numerous Black men and woman languish in America’s prisons and jails despite the fact that evidence indicates they are innocent of any wrongdoing. It is naïve and even fatally negligent to be unaware of or to ignore this bleak reality. Have we so soon forgotten about the plight of Abu Jamal? Or Geronimo Pratt? Or Rubin “Hurricane”Carter? Or Walter Swift? Or (even) OJ Simpson, who although he had the ability to hire a dream team of one of the most skilled and sophisticated legal Teams in America, was after the initial acquittal hounded and eventually convicted of a series of trumped charges which resulted in a long prison term after being manipulated into a situation to retrieve items that were reportedly stolen from him. And let us not become so compliant and slip-shod that we forget one of the most odious episodes in American criminal law when Chicago homicide investigator, Lt Burge led a squad a homicide detectives that methodically tortured over a hundred Black men into confessing to capital crimes that they were totally innocent of.
Those that assume the worst of Kilpatrick because of the workings of the judiciary would do well to remember the infamous Dred Scott Decision of 1857 delivered by United States Supreme Court Justice, Roger Taney, who said:
“They (Black people) had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the White race, either in social or political relations.; and so far inferior that they had no rights which the White man was bound to respect: and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it.This opinion was at the time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the White race.”1
And are we now to believe that the identical F.B.I. of the Detroit Field Office and the same U.S. Attorney, Barbara McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan that were involved in the death and cover-up of the events involving Imam Abdullah in a warehouse in Dearborn (where he was left to bleed out while they air-lifted the dog that attacked him to the hospital for emergency treatment) and later were involved in investigating and prosecuting Kilpatrick are now a vessels of fairness, justice and virtue?
Kilpatrick was ensnared in a political cauldron similar to those faced by other Black elected officials like Washington DC’s Marion Barry, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Harold Washington and Coleman Young, who ran afoul of the White power and privilege structure Kilpatrick days in office were cut short when he could no longer perform the balancing act of pleasing his wealthy political sponsors as well as protecting the people that depended on him and whom he was sworn to serve. And, thus, it was not so much Kilpatrick’s wrongdoing that landed him in the soup, as much as his perceived defection from the interests and control of the powerful men who, for decades, have manipulated both politicians and political events from behind the scenes.
There is, of course, insidious precedent for projecting the specter of criminality upon the collective person of the Black man. And it is not such a big jump from projecting it upon the so-called common Black man on the street,to the glorified and usually overblown one in public and political office.
This practice serves several purposes: it reminds the masses of people that regardless of how exalted the political status of Black leaders and representatives, they can still be brought low by the mighty hand of white power and supremacy; and it also serves to break the confidence of the Black masses in their political leadership and prompt them to perceive them as ultimately incompetent and powerless, and to create an environment among Blacks people that is fertile ground for self-destruction whether, social, political, psychological or physical. Renowned psychologist Dr. Bobby Wright provides an overview:
“Whites in the United States have achieved their ‘special environment’ as postulated by Watson and Skinner. Therefore, they must be held accountable for the behavior of its inhabitants. Most behavior scientists attest to the fact that situations can be contrived in a manner that will influence people to engage in self-destructive behavior. Further, once it is determined that such a condition caused the behavior, the focus of attention shifts from the victim to the perpetuator-except when Blacks are involved.
Detroit is the largest predominantly Black city in America. A city that was synonymous with American industrial might and ingenuity, and a city that is slated to be a renaissance metropolis where the old tried and true infrastructure can be refurbished and new and advanced transportation systems and avenues added and hi-tech industries brought into the city to compliment the new millennium.
The case could be made that Kilpatrick was not compliant or docile enough for the corporatocracy who were eager to hatch their plans. They realized his unsuitability during his first term as mayor, and thus the desperate push to usher in Freeman Hendrix (the former deputy Mayor under Dennis Archer) who had proven to be much more willing to dance with the devil and much more amiable to relinquish the city’s jewels and set it up for the eagerly anticipated reorganization of its assets as well as the resettlement of its population.
Yet Kilpatrick dashed their hopes by running a brilliant reelection campaign; and despite the tremendous muckraking crusade and character assassination that the main stream media launched against him in order to torpedo his chances, Kilpatrick pulled off a stunning victory and was elected mayor of Detroit for a second term.
Moreover, apart from being targeted for his unwillingness to fully cooperate with the region’s corporatist-elitist-machine, Kilpatrick became a lightning rod for all the pent up racism and frustration that had built up in the White psyche over a period of years and generations as rights and privileges that they had for centuries perceived as their exclusive domain, slipping over to Black people; a people that they have been conditioned to despise for centuries.
The Kilpatrick saga can be likened to a strange opera that continues to play out the sickness and hatred expressed with gruesome delight by the hearts and minds of the White populace. And so the attacks and insults against Kilpatrick continue on year after year and manifest themselves in a thousand vulgarities.
Sadly, it is not enough to limit the barbs and slander to Kwame, they feel compelled to also go after his mother, his sister, his wife, his father and his closest friends; all are fair game in the mad rush to strike a blow and to participate in the psychic and political lynching of a Black man and those dearest to him. Even the miscreant that participated in the Columbine shootings or the recent mass murder of children in Newtown Connecticut were not examined and demonized with nearly the same relentless determination as was leveled at Kwame Kilpatrick and his family.
His every move as well as every imagined negative scenario is injected into the public debate and lampooned in the newspapers and broadcast media.When Kilpatrick went to jail, reporters inquired if he would be strip-searched; when he was remanded to state prison it was gleefully announced in blockbuster headlines in the local newspapers; and when he was convicted in the federal court, a banner was flown over his home in Texas with the ignominious warning to the former mayor-Kwame, Don’t Drop the Soap!
Yet these attacks on Kilpatrick and the vehemence with which they are delivered are aimed not just at him (or his immediate family and friends) but are really assaults and rants on what he represents –Black people as a whole.
If politics is a dirty business, it is also a chess game played out in the halls and corridors of political leverage and power. And strategically, Kilpatrick too often made the wrong move at the wrong time. He attacked when he should have retreated, and he cringed when he should have shown courage and went on the offensive. He was uncertain and shortsighted when he should have been bold and visionary; and he exhibited arrogance when he should have exemplified humility and gratitude to his constituency and to those that paved the way for his rise to prominence.
1. Richard D. Heffner, “A Documentary History of the United States,” Penguin Books (202) p. 163
2. Bobby E. Wright, “The Psychopathic Racial Personality,” Third World Press (1984) p.p. 16, 17