Mr. Boone and the FBI

11/21/2014, 10:38 a.m.
Activist Dick Gregory used to say it all the time: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to ...

Activist Dick Gregory used to say it all the time:

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”

He also used to say any black man who isn’t paranoid must be crazy.

An article in the Nov. 11 issue of Style Weekly proves explicitly why both those expressions are true.

Writer Tom Nash requested and received from the FBI papers showing that the spy agency was investigating Richmond Free Press founder and editor Raymond H. Boone Sr. from November 1980 to mid-1982.

His article, “Declassified Files Show FBI Flagged Free Press Editor During Cold War,” and the accompanying 38 pages of FBI documents posted on the publication’s website, demonstrate the ridiculousness of the agency’s actions against this country’s citizens.

A series of communiqués between the FBI’s Baltimore, Richmond, New York and Washington offices discuss Mr. Boone and his travel to the Soviet Union in 1981 and his name being mentioned on a list by a Cuban organization.

The FBI actually tails him in the Soviet Union as they follow another unidentified person who enters the “Soviet Information Office.”

While the FBI stumbles around to figure out that Mr. Boone is an editor at the time of the Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore, they fail to mention in the declassified papers that Mr. Boone’s travel to the Soviet Union and to Cuba was as a correspondent for the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

Included in the FBI file are materials found by agents trying to determine who exactly Mr. Boone is: The “Who’s Who Among Black Americans” list; an article in which Mr. Boone and other newspaper editors are quoted about the employment of white journalists at black newspapers; and Mr. Boone’s application for a motor vehicle license in Maryland.

The materials fail to mention that the Cuban organization, started in 1969, had a mission was to promote solidarity between Americans and the Cuban Revolution.

How ironic is it that the agency looking under every rock for un-American activities was investigating an award-winning journalist who was trying to build understanding between countries and cultures?

What a waste of taxpayers’ money to investigate Mr. Boone, when many of the real villains were perhaps functioning within the FBI itself, beginning with questionable long-time director J. Edgar Hoover.

Mr. Boone grew up knowing first-hand the impact a government gone awry can have on people’s personal lives. His parents were not allowed to marry because of Virginia’s racist laws banning interracial marriage.

His father, who was Japanese, was put in an internment camp during World War II by a government that rounded up people without cause.

As a teen, Mr. Boone started the NAACP youth chapter in Suffolk because he saw how unequal public education negatively impacted people of color. All of this was in a commonwealth that preferred to shut down public secondary schools and send African-American undergraduates and graduate students out of state rather than to desegregate white schools.

Mr. Boone dedicated his life to making America live up to its promises — of equal rights, equal education, equal employment opportunities and voting rights for all people.

He also was a staunch defender of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

He would not be surprised that he was a target of government spies.

No doubt if he were still here, he would be railing in this space against the recent explosive growth of government intrusion. Now government peeping extends to all of us, as technology allows a review of all phone calls and examination of social media messages.

We must do more than shake our heads at a government that spies on its citizens in the name of freedom.

Mr. Boone was a true American. This is not the kind of constitutional democracy he stood for.