By Opio Lumumba Sokoni, MSCJ, JD
The Florida/Georgia Star
Racism and possible sexism is built into the political system as it relates to who gets targeted for investigations and how those investigations are carried out. The FBI, CIA as well as the state political and criminal justice apparatuses are all documented as being a part of a system that has a strong appetite for black political flesh. Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown is one of the latest examples of this reality. She is not the only one in the state of Florida, however. Recently, Central Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala decided not to seek the death penalty in a high-profile case and the governor of the state decided to remove her. A sitting circuit judge actually signed off on the removal. All one has to do is look at who gets life and death sentences to understand Ayala’s position. Her bravery places her in a position to do bigger works in the state – including running for office. But, she may then have to deal with becoming a victim of a racist investigation.
Congresswoman Brown faces federal conspiracy and fraud charges. Organizations that are supposed to be her allies, such as the League of Women Voters are part of the problem. That particular organization supported the “Fair District” strategy of changing Corrine’s old district which included Orlando (North/South) to now include Tallahassee (East/West). This placed a huge amount of prisons in one district. A female legislator was caught making some incredibly racist statement about how this could take out Corrine Brown. State Rep. Janet Adkins who represents Fernandina Beach stated that inmates were the key – and redrawing Corrine’s congressional district to include prisons would be “the perfect storm” because it would keep the district’s black population high, yet limit the minority vote because inmates in Florida lose their right to vote. This may seem like a 1890s Jim Crow statement but it was made only a couple of years ago. Many of Brown’s supposed allies were silent – as they are now.
But, many Blacks in the state support Corrine Brown who they love for her fights in the trenches over the years on their behalf. Some also believe that she is just another victim of a racist system which disproportionately goes after black elected officials. This seems like conspiracy talk to ignorant people but the numbers are there.
The Washington Post did a report which looked at the investigations targeting black elected officials for corruption. It found that of the 465 political corruption cases launched between 1983 and 1988—a period in which blacks were just 3 percent of all office holders, 14 percent were under investigations. Brown stated in a recent interview, “When I found out the federal government sent out over 30 agents over a time period to try to get people to offer me money and other things, what kind of system is that? What kind of system of that?”
Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ) magazine also looked into this issue and found that about half of the Congressional Black Caucus members were the subject of investigations or indictments between 1981 and 1993. They did a fairness comparison to whites stating, “For the numbers to be equal for white representatives, 204 of the 409 whites … would have been subjected to the same scrutiny during that time … Yet, according to justice Department figures, only 15 actually were.”
An FBI informant name Robert Moussallem was charged with getting incriminating information on black officials in Atlanta. He talked about his experience with the policy of harassing black officials. In an interview with author Joe Davidson, he states,
“Shortly after I began working with the FBI in 1979, I was made aware of an unofficial policy of the FBI which was generally referred to by Special Agent John McAvoy as Fruhmenschen [German for early or primitive man]. The purpose of the policy was the routine investigation without probable cause of prominent elected and appointed black officials in major metropolitan areas throughout the United States. I learned from my conversations with special agents of the FBI that the basis for this policy was the assumption y the FBI that black officials were intellectually and socially incapable of governing major government organizations and institutions.”
Moussallem’s assignment was to entrap black officials into taking bribes. Davison’s Emerge article entitled, “Targets For Scrutiny,” dated October 1996, has not been proven false in any of its research.
Corrine Brown maybe a victim because she is outspoken. Many may not have heard of the Trayvon Martin case had it not been for Brown. Brown also challenged the criminal justice system in how it gives whites alternative sentences and treatment programs while Blacks doing the same types of crime get long prison sentences. Professor Mary Sawyer at Iowa State University stated, “The magnitude of the harassment cannot be measured solely in terms of numbers of cases … the higher the level of office, or the more outspoken the official, or the greater the influence and power, the higher the incidence of harassment.”
In an NPR interview, author George Derek Musgrove who wrote the book, “Rumor, Repression, and Racial Politics,” looked at the history of investigations of black elected officials in the post-Civil Rights Era. He stated, “Harassment ideology is a set of ideas that black elected officials and some of their defenders created in the mid-1970s to just and figure out what in the world was happening to their ranks. Large numbers of them were being investigated and when I say large numbers, I mean, in 1971, every single member of the Congressional Black Caucus was under investigation by the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service.” That’s right 100%.
When asked if she would run again after this is all over, Congresswoman Brown stated, “Well, we will have to discuss that with my constituents,” She has legal fees that comes with dealing with these type cases. Her lawyer says those funds should be made out to the attention of CPLS P.A. and mailed to his attention (James Smith, III at 201 East Pine Street, Suite 445, Orlando, FL 32801 – 407.647.7887 x254). “No amount is too small,” says Brown.
I remember hearing an old man say that you ain’t worth a nickel if you can’t stand by someone who has fought for you.