Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke is a reluctant headliner because of the flap over her residence. All of the facts are not in, but speculation about Burke’s veracity continues. People are not nearly as concerned about her performance and accountability. (An Op Ed piece by a crossover pundit in the local Black press exalts Burke’s leadership on the King-Drew Medical Center debacle. This is preposterous. Not only did KDMC steadily go down during Burke’s tenure, her putative leadership surfaced only after the hospital’s fate had been sealed.)
This column looks at unethical behavior among Blacks in leadership positions, including, but not limited to, elected officials.
Virtually all organizations, public and private, have ethical standards (officially, at least) intended to govern members’ or employees’ behavior. When the U.S. House of Representatives adopted stiffer ethic rules recently, Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) remarked, “If there was one message that was abundantly clear...it was that the American people want us to end the culture of corruption that has enveloped the legislature process.” Conyers deserves credit for his candor, since many, if not most know that corruption is firmly embedded in congressional practices and behavior.
Ethical standards abound, but compliance and enforcement are another matter—both are, at best, non-priorities. Black leaders, like others, behave unethically, immorally and, at times, illegally.
Examples include: Martin Ludlow, former L.A. City Council Member and Executive Secretary of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, convicted of fraud involving unauthorized use of labor union funds; Janet Humphries, former director of SEIU Local 99, convicted of similar charges; Omar Bradley, ex-mayor of Compton, convicted of corruption; Basil Kimbrew, Compton School Board member, jailed for elections fraud; and Paul Richards, ex-mayor of Lynwood, in prison, convicted of multiple felony charges. This list is not exhausted and no organization, it seems, is immune from ethical corruption i. e., churches, sports, entertainment, education, financial institutions, law enforcement, etc.
Unethical behavior is rampant: The numerous cases of pedophile priests in the Catholic Church is causing public outcry throughout the nation. The recent out-of-court settlement by Cardinal Roger Mahoney concerning pedophiles will put the Los Angeles Archdiocese in hock for some time.)
“Black” ethics tends to emulate “White” ethics, and, America’s ethical standards are based prominently on individualism, materialism and dog-eat-dog competiveness. Middle-class Blacks, especially, have acquired the outward trappings of Americana—income, home, car, education, etc., without full access to society/s benefits. When caught violating ethical standards, many Black leaders rationalize, “Whites get away with it,” a tacit admission that they are not governed by any ethical standard.
Black leaders seem to support ethical behavior unless or until accused of unethical behavior themselves. They then, cop an impassioned plea (excuse) as though “Whites do it” absolves them of responsibility. That’s nonsense.
Space does not permit a proper discussion of values, ideology and philosophy—all central to understanding factors leading to Black leaders having internalized majority values. Having done so, to challenge White’s values, is to challenge themselves. Serious public discourse on ethics by Blacks, will go hand in hand with significant group transformation—spiritually, attitudes, and behavior).
Incidentally, Black leaders constantly denigrate gangsta rapping youth. They mouth hypocritical, ethical and moral platitudes, but are mostly disinterested, negative role models for these and all other youth.
Black leadership properly criticizes law enforcement’s universal code of silence—LAPD is a prime example. Nonetheless, they themselves condone a similar code. Also, their support of policies and practices detrimental to Blacks routinely goes unchallenged. And, Black leaders are fully aware that their silence helps to perpetuate unethical practices.
People in the “streets” are also prone to overprotect leadership. Nonetheless, they are not at all timid about criticizing or holding leaders accountable, when necessary.) The bottom line is that Blacks still accept unethical leadership and too often, corrupt behavior. Such behavior works on an individual basis, or seems to. Ultimately, it is dysfunctional and contrary to Blacks’ best interests. First and foremost, such behavior is morally wrong, no matter what benefits may accrue to individuals.
When will Black leaders admit that they actually have very little power, and copying White’s standards does nothing to change that.
The answers lie in unity and common purpose. High-sounding meetings and conferences that skirt local issues and concerns have not, and will not work. The majority’s George W. Bush brand of ethics can never be in Blacks’ interest and It is time that Black leadership seek and adopt ethical standards that enhance and celebrate the lives of its people.
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail