- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2001

It is hard to conceive of any crime more horrible or morally despicable than the raping, torture, and sexual enslavement of children that reportedly has been going on in Atlanta for at least several years. And until recently, little attention was paid by local authorities. Still less has been paid by the civil rights establishment.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a vicious prostitution ring has been selling black girls as young as 10 years old. Many of these children were arrested, brought before the courts and incarcerated, while their middle-aged pimps for the most part went free.
Finally, in January, federal prosecutors, using federal racketeering laws, stepped in and charged 13 men and one woman.
Where was the outrage from the civil rights establishment? While the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has invested its time and expended its moral capital in mustering marchers against South Carolina and Mississippi state flags, the horrendous plight of Atlantas young black girls has been ignored, and the moral treason unpunished. Where are the Tom Joyners and other black talk show hosts? Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? If these had been white pimps and black children, would we have had a different reaction? Do they only see evil when it wears a white face?
In all my years in working with neighborhoods across the country, I have never seen nor heard of a worse perversion that what has been happening in Atlanta. That anyone would take homeless and disadvantaged children, and pervert and subject them to gang rapes and then offer them for sex is a crime worse than murder or slavery. Yet it does not seem to have fired the indignation of the civil rights establishment the way the flag or racial profiling has done
The NAACP spent $13 million to defeat Republicans, and assembled 100,000 people to take down the flag. It mounts an economic boycott against an entire state. What does it do for these girls?
If flags and racial profiling are the new civil rights mantra, what would success look like? If the flags came down, and every policeman promised to stop profiling, would it pass the "so what" test? Would it stop the exploitation of these children? Where are our priorities?
In March, the Georgia state legislature finally passed a law making it a felony to pimp minors. But stiffer laws wont solve the whole problem. Most of the children come from abusive and dysfunctional households. Those judges in Atlanta who wanted to save these children had nowhere to send them except their own dysfunctional homes. Once released and returned home, they run away again, often seeing the streets as their only way to survive. Instead of being embraced in an extended family as they might have been in years past, the girls have been inducted into sex slavery.
The community needs to mobilize to insist that laws be strengthened and enforced against pimps. But the black community also needs to mobilize to provide a safe haven for these children. In Somerset, N.J., some years ago, there were hundreds of black babies abandoned in hospitals whose mothers were crack addicts. A black church led by Rev. DeForrest "Buster" Soaries took it on itself to provide homes for these babies, and many were adopted by church members.
The danger, as the former mayor of Richmond said, is that we are facing a crisis that is much worse than the combined impact of racism and slavery.
The NAACP and the Confederate flag both should be put in a museum. The enemy is within and we keep looking outside.

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


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