Race and Rand

“NO ONE in this country is crafting a better message of uplift for the African-American community than Rand Paul.” —Rev. Dr. Kevin Cosby, Twitter, Sept. 17, 2013

“Ultimately, what the local black community really needs is more public debate where questions can be asked and answers given. Why (do I write about these things)? One, because no one else will. Two, because silence is tantamount to agreement.” —Ricky L. Jones, “Thirty pieces of silver: Queen Anne and her loyal black preachers,” LEO, Nov. 2002

The second quote above is from my very first column in LEO. “Thirty pieces of silver” was a scathing critique of the relationship between Republican Congresswoman Anne Northup and a number of black ministers who supported her. It was filled with fury, righteous indignation and political combativeness. It drew battle lines — some of which endure ’til this day. Many viewed the piece as a stridently disrespectful, acerbic attack that should never have been printed. Despite such criticism, I never regretted writing that column for one moment. It made people think. In fact, re-reading it reminds me that silence is indeed tantamount to agreement.

“Thirty pieces of silver” was tame compared to some of the writings and rhetoric during this time. Many exchanges, with ministers in particular, were filled with ad hominem nastiness and mean-spiritedness. I’m the first to admit I happily played my part and gave as good as I got. Often, the target of my blows was the Rev. Kevin Cosby. Our relationship was beyond nasty. Thankfully, over time, we developed a friendship. The road to that was long and I simply don’t have enough space to chronicle it. Suffice it to say that we have love for one another.

So, I speak now not of a faceless, perceived hustling minister as I characterized him in my mind in 2002, but of my friend. That is much, much harder. Instead of firing missives filled with piss and vinegar, this is one overflowing with love and care. With that deep affection, I reach out to (and may have to oppose) a dear brother.

Let me say that the Rev. Cosby is much more adept at social media than I. He tweets a lot! In the last month or so, he engaged in a number of public exchanges on his long-held belief that “Democrats take blacks for granted and Republicans have written us off.” On this we agree. He also sent out a few zingers concerning Sen. Rand Paul. Here, I think we part company.

In mid-September, the Rev. Cosby raised eyebrows with a number of tweets on Paul. In one, he opined that he had “heard no national politician speak on the substantive issues affecting African-Americans like Rand Paul.” He also said Paul’s “opposition to the military industrial complex is reminiscent of Martin Luther King in 1967.” The most powerful one was, “NO ONE in this country is crafting a better message of uplift for the African-American community than Rand Paul.” These were shocking proclamations to many — myself included.

It should be noted, however, that during this same period of time, the Rev. Cosby condemned Sen. Ted Cruz’s embrace of Jesse Helms and other Republican marginalizations of blacks. His powerful statements on Paul, however, cannot (and should not) be ignored. Here is the problem I’m faced with — a ton of people have approached me and asked where I stand on this. Some are clearly thinking, “Are you going to be silent now that you two are cool?”

Here’s my response — I’m not that kind of man. That’s cowardly. I will not be silent, but I will not be presumptuous either. I could easily privately talk with Cosby about this (and will). But this is a public matter, and I don’t want his stances mischaracterized. My friend deserves the opportunity to explain his words so they are not misunderstood or taken out of context.

So, here is what I will do. I am inviting the Rev. Cosby to write a column in this space to explain his position on Sen. Paul. Then we all can have a healthy debate (or agreement) on this important issue. I just want everyone to give him a chance before they crucify him. Let’s see where it goes.

So, as WFPL’s Phillip Bailey has characterized us — Louisville’s Nas and Jay-Z debates may return. Phil will be happy.

To be continued …

Follow Ricky L. Jones: @DrRickyLJones on Twitter and on Facebook.