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Gregory Kane: Tolerating the intolerant

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Opinion,Gregory Kane,Columnists,Race and Diversity

It was through sheer serendipity that I stumbled on Thomas Peele's book "Killing The Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist."

My daughter flew in from Berkeley, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 24. She had with her two of my grandchildren, Spencer and Kaila.

Those two are more than my grandchildren; they're also my best buddies ever. And I hadn't seen them in two and a half years, ever since they moved to Berkeley.

The next day, the five of us -- me, my daughter, my best buddies and my wife -- all hopped on the MARC train to Union Station and then took a taxi to the Newseum, where my daughter had arranged for us to get complimentary tickets.

We started at the top floor and worked our way down, going from exhibit to exhibit. It ended at the gift shop, where, almost instinctively, I headed for the books.

That's when I saw Peele's book, a nearly 400-page work about the 2007 murder of Oakland, Calif., journalist Chauncey Bailey and the attempts to bring the perpetrators of that crime to justice.

I remember reading about Bailey's murder when it happened. I knew the basic details: that he was working on a story about an Oakland business known as Your Black Muslim Bakery; that he had written a story the bakery's owner didn't like; and that this simple act of basic journalism cost him his life.

But there is much more to the story than that, and Peele gives it to us, with all the horrific, sordid and disgusting details.

Despite the name, the people that ran the Your Black Muslim Bakery were not part of the Nation of Islam. They were at one point, but Yusuf Ali Bey, who started the bakery with his brother, broke with the NOI and started his own Oakland-based cult.

For years, Bey abused and raped children -- girls and boys -- in the compound of buildings he owned adjacent to the bakery. Oakland officials were either unwilling or unable to stop the abuse.

When this monster wasn't molesting children, he ranted about white devils. In 1994, he had the gall to run for mayor of Oakland. He invited Khalid Abdul Muhammad, then-spokesman for the Nation of Islam, to town for an endorsement speech.

Muhammad was so vile a racist and anti-Semite that NOI leader Louis Farrakhan booted him out of the organization in late 1993. That didn't stop Bey from seeking his support.

But Jew-baiting lunatics weren't the only ones supporting Bey. In 1998, Jerry Brown, then running for mayor of Oakland, had no problem paying a chummy visit to Bey's bakery. Brown, as we know, is a Democrat.

So is former U.S. Rep. and former Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who often spoke highly of Bey.

There is a lesson to be learned here. We know how Democrats, of late, have been on a rant about how racist and intolerant and bigoted Republicans are. To hear Democrats -- and at least one Republican, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and former Secretary of State Colin Powell -- tell it, Republicans have virtually cornered the racism/intolerance/bigotry market.

But, as the record shows, Democrats tolerated, winked at and ignored Bey's racism, intolerance, anti-Semitism and bigotry. In a city run by Democrats, Bey ran roughshod over members of his cult for decades.

We should all ponder how Democrats took to Bey when people like Powell make snide references to the "vein of intolerance" that supposedly runs only through the Republican Party.

This weekend, I might head back to the Newseum and buy another copy of "Killing The Messenger." This time, I'll mail the copy to Powell.

Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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Gregory Kane

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The Washington Examiner