For a week the testimony from Courtroom 2 of the U.S. District Court has rolled out like bilge water.
The mayor of our nation's capital (our greatest city in my view) has been accused of addictive uses of cocaine, crack and other mind-bending drugs, even as he was pretending to wage an anti-dope campaign among the youngsters of the city. Marion Barry has been accused of carrying illicit drugs around in a matchbox, and in the cuffs of his trousers, and of using and supplying such unlawful dope to those with whom he engaged in adulterous escapades.
Titillating stuff. Unless you are inclined to look at the farther-reaching implications of what will become one of the most lurid, most-reported trials of this century.
This trial will tell us the extent to which Americans have become inured to illegal uses of drugs by their officials. Will any juror "hang tough," believing that there's really nothing wrong with a black mayor snorting cocaine, smoking crack or heroin or whatever? It will tell us whether Americans of all races expect their political leaders to behave as circumspectly as Caesar's wife, or whether they are prepared to overlook sins of the flesh, urges of chemical addiction, or whatever.
Most of all, the Barry trial will tell us how much white racism has poisoned the judgments of millions of Americans who are not white. Will any black member of that majority-black jury say: "I know from the testimony, the evidence, that Marion Barry is a bad and sinful man, but because he is the classic victim of white racism, I cannot bring myself to convict him"?
Are the scars of racism against blacks so crusty, so oozing with pain, that a black juror will wallow in the paranoia of belief that the Justice Department only uses female Judases and tape-recorded stings to "entrap" an official like Barry? I recall the names of white officials who went to prison after the FBI's ABSCAM sting and conclude that if that Justice Department caper was lawful, so was every maneuver to allow Barry to entrap g trial
I have faith that the jurors, who cannot be influenced by this column, will conclude that there is no crime of law enforcement people going after Barry, whose proclivities toward shameful law-breaking were well-known. These jurors will rise above racial passions and look at the real victims of the Barry years.
I'm speaking of the ever-increasing number of black males who have died in an explosion of homicides in the District of Columbia -- deaths related to the very drugs that Barry claims he did not use.
And other D.C. residents who take second-class citizenship in anger, knowing that they will never have a real hope for statehood and meaningful voting rights as long as the White House and Congress can see that the District of Columbia is mired in drug abuse and corruption.
Whatever the toadies and others around him may say, Barry has lured a lot of youngsters into the drug-abuse hell that the mayor is now in, and he has become a curse upon the decent citizens of this city. As the bilge of testimony washes out of Courtroom 2, we shall all know that no jury verdict can quickly make this city clean.