It is painful for many of us who are African-American to hear about one of our own falling, and failing. The phrase, "fall from grace" is an extreme cliche' that is always misapplied, simply because of the fact that the majority of Black politicians, and public figures who get into trouble are not afforded the luxury of grace, and rarely if ever get a second chance. Society is swift to judge and slow to remember that there is no saint without a past, or a sinner without a future. America as a society has always had a habit of deifying public figures, but the list of qualifications for such deification has shrank over the years to one line item, fame. Black America has always followed suit, because of the fact that so few of us are able to rise to the upper echelons of public life. So, many famous African-American's are pedestalized just for being famous, that most people forget that they are human, and at the same time many African-American public figures relish a life of notoriety and privilege, and live in a perpetual state of illusion, and self aggrandizement.
Last week, Congressman Jessie Jackson Jr. (D. Chicago) was indicted in federal court for "enriching" himself. According to the Justice Department Jackson was embroiled in a criminal scheme to defraud campaign donors by misusing their funds for his own "personal benefit." He pled guilty last Wednesday. Jackson admitted to spending at least $750,000 of public funds on personal items, including a $43,350 gold Rolex, $5,150 worth of mink capes and parkas from Beverly Hills, a $4,600 Michael Jackson fedora and $2,200 worth of Malcolm X memorabilia. He was also accused of falsifying federal campaign finance disclosure reports to conceal the embezzlement. Jackson, who faces 46 to 57 months in jail under a plea agreement, won't be sentenced until June 28. His wife, Sandi, who also recently resigned from public office, has pleaded guilty to separate tax fraud charges. Mink capes, and parka's?! Was he in the running for "Mack of The Year", or what?
Jackson, in a statement, said he made some "errors in judgment," adding that we all make "mistakes." But this wasn't some sudden ethical lapse. The indictment says Jackson engaged in at least a seven year conspiracy to defraud the public, allegedly going as far back as 2005.
This latest scandal brings some disturbing facts to light concerning the Congressional Black Caucus.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s guilty plea to fraud charges raises fresh questions about the Congressional Black Caucus. It's a group with many laudable goals, but why do so many in it succumb to corruption? A disproportionate share of ethics cases have been brought against this exclusive club.
According to a 2012 National Journal study, five of the six lawmakers under review by the House Ethics Committee were Black Caucus members. Yet just one in 10 House members belong to the group.
It's an all too familiar pattern. In 2009, all eight lawmakers under ethics investigation were African-American. Besides Jackson, they included Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who was later convicted of accepting gifts from donors with business before his tax writing panel and 11 other ethics violations.
All told, an astonishing one third of sitting black lawmakers have been named in an ethics probe at some point in their career's on Capitol Hill. The stats do not include former lawmakers now doing time in prison, such as ex-Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. FBI agents caught Jefferson red handed with $90,000 of bribery cash stashed in his office freezer, giving the phrase "cold, hard, cash', a whole new meaning.
The Congressional Black Caucus was founded 40 years ago by Representatives Shirley Chisholm, William Clay, George Collins, John Conyers, Ronald Dellums, Charles Diggs, Augustus Hawkins, Ralph Metcalfe, Parren Mitchell, Robert Nix, Charles Rangel, Louis Stokes, and DC Delegate Walter Fauntroy. Its members considered themselves "the conscience of the Congress." and swore to help "disadvantaged African-Americans." Today, members of the group seem more likely to be in trouble for lining their pockets than solving the very serious problems of their constituents.
I am almost at a loss for words. It seems as if things like honesty, integrity, and honor have become a thing of the past. But the fact of the matter is, to whom much is given, much is required. That applies to each and every person who has been entrusted with any and all kinds of responsibilities. I could easily sit here and speculate on a conspiracy to ruin the careers of those who are a part of the Congressional Black Caucus, but the fact is, the evidence is just to obvious to ignore. For me to make a case about overzealous prosecution would be an attempt to ignore the fact that some of those members caught in scandal were actually guilty, choosing to operate in their own free will with calamitous results. The reality is, fine jewelry, furs, and a massive amount of cash in a freezer are all inexplicable symbols of greed and malfeasance that cannot be over looked or classified as the spoils of flawed human character.
They are the results of narcissism, and egocentric personalities run a muck, leading to the slow unraveling of both their careers and their lives.