Political Prisoners

Prayin’ With the Devil

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

In Houston, Texas, those who were the staunchest supporters of the now embattled D.A. there, Harris County’s Chuck Rosenthal, are now calling for his resignation.

Among his best, most passionate supporters were Black ministers, many of whom even considered him to be a close friend.

What changed?

The release of hundreds of e-mails from the D.A. for starters—for they reveal a man who loved a racist joke, especially those aimed at Blacks. The e-mails also uncovered sexual improprieties with his co-workers.

It should be more than enough that Rosenthal, and his District Attorney’s Office, led the nation in death sentences and executions. But, this being Texas, this didn’t get the Black preachers sufficiently riled up.

What stung them were the racist images circulated on his e-mail, like the photo of a prone Black man, sprawled on the sidewalk, near large pieces of watermelon, a cup of soda, and an empty bucket of chicken. The photo is titled: “Fatal Overdose.”

Robert Jefferson, pastor of the Cullin Missionary Baptist Church (and member of Houston Ministers Against Crime), responded to news of the e-mails by observing, “We prayed with him; we have been working with him—I feel jilted.” The pastor added, “He was smiling with us in one place and stabbing us in our backs in another.”

Well—welcome to politics, Pastor!

At a recent news conference, the pastor was joined by a number of other Black ministers who expressed their view that Rosenthal should step down—an unlikely outcome, given the relative impunity of the prosecutorial system down there (and elsewhere).

Pastor Jefferson said, “It disturbed me so much, I didn’t know what to do.” He added, “How deep does this racism go? How many black kids have been locked up while they laugh at us?”

But the truth of the matter is, this isn’t a Harris County problem, nor purely a problem of Texas. It’s an American problem that is as deep south of the Mason-Dixon Line as it is north of it. Indeed, there are few big-city D.A.s who have either come to power, or held on to it, without the eager support of Black ministers—and their congregations. Is there any wonder why prosecutors bum-rush the pulpit every election season?

D.A.s hungry for Black notches on their belts; power-drunk judges blind to the racism of the systems they oversee—that ain’t a Texas thing.

They just might be a little more juiced about it, is all.

But, as Black activist (then known as) Rap Brown might have said, “It’s as American as cherry pie.”, January 18, 2008

(Source: Casimir, Leslie, “Black Leaders urge Rosenthal to Step Down,” Houston Chronicle, January 12, 2008, pp. A1 - A14)