- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 7, 2004

As the sexual assault charges against basketball star Kobe Bryant shift into high gear, once again the valueless race card has raised its ugly head from the bottom of the deck. Unfortunately, this appalling tactic follows the pattern established by O.J. Simpson, and most recently Michael Jackson. Their actions sully, trample and devalue the civil rights movement.

When legal efforts fail, when defense fails, they headed for the shelter of race. Mr. Bryant’s lawyer, Pamela Mackey, first raised the issue in court filings, then went to open court to suggest that Mr. Bryant’s problem is part of a history of black men being false accused by white women.

I have no idea if Kobe Bryant or Michael Jackson are guilty of what they are accused. I do know their sudden embrace of the race issue undermines and marginalizes the civil rights movement. The principles others fought and died for unfortunately have become the last retreat for scoundrels.

These are individuals who distanced themselves from the black community. But when in trouble, they run to being black. When they basked in the national spotlight and times were good for them, the last thought on their minds was the welfare of black Americans. But when they get into trouble with the law and all else fails, the first thing they do is try to shroud themselves in the mantle of race victim.

Some years ago when Michael Jackson was in trouble, he did the same thing. But as soon as the storm blew over, he went back to being best friends with Elizabeth Taylor and others like her. Now that he is once again having issues with the law, he has reached out for help from the Nation of Islam — the ultimate experience of blackness. NOI is now his inner circle and providing security.

It is interesting to contrast this behavior with that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King, more than any man, probably had much more right to say he was being targeted because of his race, with the FBI shadowing his every move and its director furnishing information about his private life to his congressional foes. But he never used the race card to shield himself from criticism or persecution.

Race continues to be a problem in this nation today, but not to the extent the race industry and those who would use race as a shield would have it. Unfortunately, those who come forth with legitimate complaints of racism now have to be measured against the false complaints of a Kobe Bryant. And the true racists will marginalize them by saying they are no different than Michael or Kobe.

To allow this outrage to go unchallenged really plays into the hands of the enemies of black programs and represents a political victory for bigots.

Robert L. Woodson Sr. is president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.