Gregory Kane, Baltimore Sun, July 13, 2005
It’s the apology, stupid.
NAACP board Chairman Julian Bond took to the podium Sunday to address the organization’s 96th convention in Milwaukee. Once again, Bond pretended to bemoan President George W. Bush’s decision not to address the convention.
Then, once again, Bond proceeded to bash Bush, saying “the president likes to talk the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk” on civil rights.
It’s the season to apologize. Members of the U.S. Senate recently apologized for the inaction of their predecessors in passing anti-lynching legislation. Bond made a reference to the apology in his speech when he criticized eight senators who he said “dodged” the apology.
Marylanders are still waiting for the NAACP — which has its national headquarters in Baltimore — to push for hate crimes prosecution in the deaths of Joel Lee and Yvonne Fountain. Lee, a Korean-American, was killed in Baltimore in the early 1990s. Fountain, a white woman, was raped and fatally beaten in Cambridge a year before the National Voter Fund ran its “issue ad.”
According to the FBI, a hate crime is motivated “in whole or in part by a bias.” In Lee’s case, the defendant’s uncle said his nephew admitted that he shot Lee because he “didn’t like Asians.” In Fountain’s case, the Dorchester County state’s attorney office also said that race was a factor.
In both cases, black suspects were charged with the killings. In a shocking decision, a city jury acquitted the defendant in the Lee case, and the Court of Special Appeals overturned the conviction of one of the suspects in the Fountain case.
Only months before the National Voter Fund “issue ad” on hate crimes ran, an Asian-American immigrant from Thailand, Sammy Thamavong, was brutally beaten on the streets of East Baltimore. Two black youths who bragged about beating “the Asian man” were charged in the offense. But not with a hate crime. And you can bet no one at either NAACP national headquarters or the local branch pushed for a hate crime prosecution.
But hate crimes prosecutions aren’t really necessary, not in this season of apologies. Since Bond feels U.S. senators are obliged to apologize in 2005 for senators of yesteryear, can’t he apologize for the NAACP’s failure to speak out against hate crimes committed by blacks against whites and Asians?