Ire Over Hahn's Decision on Parks is Misplaced

By EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON

It took less than a nanosecond for black leaders to scream for Mayor James Hahn's head when he called for dumping Police Chief Bernard Parks. Hahn, they say, stabbed the black community in the back.

But did he? Hahn did not sign a contract to reappoint Parks if he got the black vote. Besides, all newly elected officials appoint whom they like, feel comfortable with and believe will further their agenda. Hahn made it clear that's why he wants Parks out.

But some black politicians have become adept at playing the role of the all-seeing, all-knowing defender of the Holy Grail of black interests even if they make little or no effort to inform the black public on vital legislation and political actions that directly impact on black communities. This was the case during last year's mayor's race.

Black leaders could have made a credible case that Parks deserved to keep his job based on his record in fighting crime, furthering reform, or providing sound leadership. Instead, they issued a color-coded order for blacks to fight for Parks because he's one of us. Meanwhile, they ignored or vilified those black leaders, activists and elected officials who claimed Parks has not done enough to reform the LAPD, and were convinced that not much would change if he were given another term. A few of them have publicly applauded Hahn for not supporting Parks.

Black leaders continue to turn a blind-eye to the danger of dumping all their political eggs in one basket. With scattered exceptions, nearly all-local black elected officials lined up behind Hahn in the race against Antonio Villaraigosa. In the end, Villaraigosa got less than one-fifth of the black vote. The standard explanation was that black voters had fond memories for Hahn's father, Kenny, who served as an L.A. County supervisor for nearly four decades and was regarded as a staunch civil rights fighter.

This is the politically correct explanation, but it's far too simple. Blacks saw Hahn as the safe and traditional Democrat who would best protect their interests. Villaraigosa was seen as an inexperienced political maverick who could not or would not deliver the goods for blacks. Now they lash Hahn for not ponying up on Parks.

Black leaders have gotten themselves into this disastrous political trap by not having the courage and vision to urge black voters to look seriously at, and even vote for, independent reform-minded Democrats or Republicans who refuse to engage in back room deal-making. This cynical manipulation of the political process further deepens the frustration and alienation of many blacks.

There are fewer blacks in the state legislature today than five years ago. The political free fall is so bad that there are almost as many Latino Republicans as blacks in the Assembly.

In the coming weeks, black leaders will fight tooth and nail to get the L.A. Police Commission to ignore Hahn's decision and retain Parks. Failing that they'll try to muster enough votes to get the City Council to reject Hahn and the Commission and reappoint Parks. Even if they succeed, the fight for Park's job is no substitute for a balanced, broad and inclusive political agenda that does not rise or fall on the fate of one appointee, or the perceived failed promise of a politician. This, and not Parks or Hahn, is the real challenge.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and columnist. He can be heard on KPFK Radio, 90.7FM, Tuesdays, 7-8 p.m.

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