Ferguson’s public relations operative Devin James, 32, has been under fire since last week’s Post-Dispatch report that he once served time in 2009 for killing an unarmed man in 2004. James, who is African-American, says it was self-defense. He’s since lost his city contract but according to MSNBC, is staying on as spokesman, pro bono. Now, James is telling his story–and viewed next to the week’s negative reaction to his criminal past (and possibly lying on his resume), it’s hard not to think of second chances. Who gets them? Who doesn’t? James, it must be said, isn’t all that different from tens of thousands of other African-American men seeking to start over with criminal records stemming from everything from failure to pay excessive criminal fines to murder. 

James explained his motives, background and past during a 10-minute St. Louis Public Radio interview yesterday (follow link for audio). An excerpt:

It’s important to have someone who’s faced similar challenges at the table [in Ferguson] at the strategic level…. I know what it’s like to be a black man who has a sense of fear when he’s pulled over from law enforcement or who fears any interaction with law enforcement. I know what it’s like to have been in the system and therefore have challenges establishing my credit again or being able to get a job afterwards. …The fact that I didn’t graduate from high school; I got my GED. The fact that…my education so to speak, or lack thereof, didn’t define me. So I think I bring something to the table.

Even with the recent attacks on me, I guess it would be different if I was a rapper, or if I was a football player, then none of this really matters. But because I’m not, you know, all of a sudden we need to destroy this person’s character–when I’m one of the only African-Americans that’s actually at the table trying to make sure that Ferguson changes their perspective.

If everyone in the St. Louis region has a problem with me and I’m the guy who’s overcome some of those challenges, kinda got his life together, got a company going, trying to make a positive impact and you still have a problem with me–what do you think about the folks who don’t have their life together? Is that to say that they shouldn’t be given a second chance as well?