The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP has been in the national spotlight as of late because of its tendency to hand awards to Donald Sterling, a man with a long and well-documented history of racial bias accusations against him.
In addition to awards in 2008 and 2009, the Los Angeles NAACP was set to give the Clippers owner yet another award this year but has since rescinded that opportunity due to the controversy over an audio recording that features a racist tirade from Sterling.
In light of the numerous racial bias lawsuits filed against Sterling over the years, a fact that is not in line with the mission of a 100-year old civil rights organization, some media outlets have speculated that the LA NAACP was in the business of giving awards to Sterling because of large financial contributions. It’s a logical assumption. After all, many non-profits give awards to their biggest donors.
The face of the NAACP chapter in question is its president, Leon Jenkins, and in an April 28th press conference, Jenkins denied that there were any large contributions from Sterling. Jenkins refused to say how much money Sterling gave but did note that it was not a lot of money.
“It’s an insignificant amount of money and we’re going to return it,” said Jenkins.
But if Sterling has not given copious amounts of money to the LA NAACP, on what basis would the organization give such a man multiple honors? Sterling’s “gifts” of scholarships, Clippers tickets for youth organizations and money to various other non-profits hardly seem worthy of a lifetime achievement award when measured against decades of words and actions that are in direct conflict with the NAACP’s mission.
“There is a personal, economic and social price that Mr. Sterling must pay for his attempt to turn the clock back on race relations,” said Jenkins from a prepared statement. “If these statements are not who Mr. Sterling is, then he should spend the appropriate time necessary proving to the African-American community that these words don’t reflect who he is, or who he wishes to become.”
It’s not clear what economic price should be paid and to whom, but Jenkins is someone who knows a thing or two about redemption and overcoming a public scandal. Twenty years ago, he had a controversy of his own.
Leon Jenkins, a native of Los Angeles who was raised in Tennessee, was admitted to practice law in Michigan in 1979 and in California in 1980. In 1984, Jenkins was appointed a 36th District Court judge in Detroit. In 1991, the Michigan Supreme Court removed him from the bench and revoked his law license.
The court found that between 1984 and 1987, Jenkins had “systematically and routinely sold his office and his public trust, . . . committed wholesale violations of the most elementary canons of judicial con-duct, and brought grave dishonor upon this state’s judiciary.”
Jenkins was accused of numerous misdeeds, including accepting bribes to fix traffic tickets, using a different address to lower his car insurance payments, and directing a person to commit perjury during his federal investigation. Despite an FBI surveillance video of Jenkins accepting cash bribes from an FBI informant, Jenkins was found not guilty in two federal racketeering trials.