By Jamala Rogers | St. Louis American | Word In Black

This post was originally published on St. Louis American

(WIB) – These are a few words that former St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad allegedly said to ‘John Doe’ in a pay-to-play scheme that is rocking the city. Doe was being assured that he was going to get a big “hook-up” once he made a big payoff.

This is where some elected officials get it wrong.

Alleged bribery, political favoritism, and lining one’s pockets are not part of the job.

Alleged bribery, political favoritism, and lining one’s pockets are not part of the job. Too many elected officials and political appointees behave as if that is part of the job. It goes on under the noses of an unsuspecting public often too consumed with its own concerns to notice. The public can also feel powerless to do anything about it.

The political careers of former Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, former Aldermen Jeffrey Boyd Collins-Muhammad are most likely over. These African American elected officials were listed in a federal indictment, complete with transcripts of conversations detailing how they would assist business owner Doe in gaming the system. In exchange they allegedly received monetary and material goodies to enrich themselves.

In anticipation of the impending indictment, Collins-Muhammad resigned from his post in May admitting he had made “mistakes.” Boyd followed suit two days after his indictment. Belatedly, Reed finally resigned as well.

The responses to the scandal seem to depend on one’s relationship to the three. An impromptu protest was organized at City Hall demanding Reed and Boyd’s resignations.

Reed was the longest serving BOA president, a powerful position of influence over city politics and finances. The position has a seat on the city’s influential chief fiscal body, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment most recently with Mayor Tishaura Jones and Comptroller Darlene Green.

There seems to be genuine sadness in some circles for Reed for allowing himself to be caught in these alleged political shenanigans. The consequences for him could be much more grave than his co-defendants.

For Collins-Muhammad, there were online comments about exchanging his impressive suits for an orange prison jumpsuit. These digs were based on his proposal to require dress attire for the Board of Aldermen meetings. He insisted that a dress code was needed, stating “we are professional legislators.”

For Boyd, some responses to his indictment were jubilant, especially from some of his constituents in the 22nd Ward. Many never saw themselves as the alderman’s priority despite Boyd’s parting words of how well he had served them. There were reports of spontaneous dances throughout the ward as people chanted “Bye, bye Boyd.”

The indictments drew a measured but stern reaction from Mayor Jones, who often felt the brunt of Boyd and Reed’s political dissent. Boyd, who was defeated in political campaigns for treasurer and mayor, filed lawsuits to undercut her authority, and blocked bills Jones supported as treasurer and now mayor.

Boyd lost two bids to unseat Jones as treasurer, and was a spoiler candidate in the 2017 mayor’s race. Reed ran for mayor unsuccessfully three times.

It’s tempting to be gleeful when karma knocks on the door of someone who has allegedly wronged us or our community. It is much harder to view a situation through the lens of needed “transformative change.”

And no, I’m not getting soft in my old age. I still don’t believe in turning the other cheek or loving my enemy. And, I do believe in holding people accountable for the harm they have done. The consequences should fit the harm or the crime.

The Black community has long been victimized in so many ways by so many different predators, we have scar tissue on top of scar tissue.

In a spirit of restorative justice, it can be a struggle to balance or replace revenge with something more lasting and helpful. The Black community has long been victimized in so many ways by so many different predators, we have scar tissue on top of scar tissue.

It hurts double when the predator looks like you.

This is a time to reflect on how we contribute to an environment that allows people to commit acts that further our dehumanization and misfortune, and exploit us. It’s time to re-imagine our communities, and make people think twice before they double-cross us.

These efforts need to be stopped, not just out of respect for the people of the community, but out of fear of the consequences if moral imperatives are unheeded.

That’s our job.