Old grudge fueling NAACP opposition to Lynne Abraham?

The NAACP has every right to oppose Lynne Abraham for interim district attorney, simply because it is an American organization protected by the First Amendment.

Let them march.

Let them use bullhorns.

Let them raise their rhetorical flaming torches, something they do so very well.

Let them, as it were, draw a line in the sand.

And then all of us who care about justice and don’t give a damn about its color or creed, need to walk right over that line. If we don’t, if we allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence or acquiescence to avoid the “racist” label, we deserve unsafe streets.

We deserve DAs who think criminals are victims of circumstance.

We deserve police officers who can’t do their jobs because their hands are tied by political expedience,  residents who cower behind their front doors because the wolves are running amok outside, unsolved murders and inconsolable survivors.

Of course, it’s not all the fault of the NAACP. But any organization that cares more about resuscitating old grudges and avenging ancient offenses than the safety of a city’s innocent citizens, many of whom are members of the minority community they purport to serve, should be ignored.

Let them speak, but turn a deaf ear to their claims of prejudice and their protestations of injustice.

Rodney Muhammad, president of the group’s Philadelphia branch, stated on Saturday that “We had a great deal of problems with Lynne Abraham when she reigned as DA.  I was shocked that she would put in her name for consideration.  We’re putting out a public call to her to withdraw her name from consideration.”

Many members of the black community have opposed Lynne Abraham in the past, arguing that the first (and so far only) woman who held the position of the city’s chief enforcement officer presided over an office that regularly sough harsh punishments for criminals, including the death penalty, and that her tenure was particularly draconian when it came to the black community.

They neglect to mention that the vast majority of the victims her office represented were also from that same community.

But that’s not the reason the NAACP is angry that Abraham would throw her hat back into the ring.  They have a petty, personal, longstanding grudge that is as irrelevant to the history of the DA’s office as it was relevant to the African Americans who dearly wanted a historical first:  the appointment of the first female African American to be appointed to the federal bench.

Back in 1997, then President Bill Clinton appointed Common Pleas Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Among those who opposed the nomination, including a raft of conservative activists, was Lynne Abraham.  The DA’s position was based in her belief that Massiah-Jackson showed far too much hostility to police and prosecutors during her tenure on the city’s criminal bench.  Because of the opposition, the nomination was derailed.

I do not personally know Judge Massiah-Jackson, although she once presided over a case in which I was tangentially involved.  She was fair, learned and had exactly the type of judicial temperament one would hope to see in a jurist.

I do, however, know Lynne Abraham.  I first met her at my father’s law school graduation in 1965, because she was a member of that same graduating class at Temple, and she was his good friend.  She remained his friend, a loyal one, until his death 30 years ago.  And I have followed her professional trajectory from afar for these past decades, with both affection and admiration.  I am not at all an unbiased observer.

But I am objective in this one thing:  The NAACP does not have the right to use a personal vendetta to keep a highly accomplished woman from serving all of the city’s residents, regardless of color, creed, gender, ZIP code or political affiliation.  What happened two decades ago is irrelevant to what is happening now in our streets, and that is the massacre of innocents, and the only person who has dealt with that effectively over the past decades is Lynne Abraham.

I do not remember the NAACP marching when one of their own, Seth Williams, brought shame upon the District Attorney’s Office.

To see them raising their fists at this moment, for this reason, is one of the most offensive things I have ever experienced.

So yes, let them protest.  But their protest should fall on deaf ears.

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