I tip my cap to Virginia's Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder for having the guts to urge black leaders not to engage in self-destructive paranoia.
He has urged black leaders not to become ''patsies'' who leap forth to cry ''racism'' whenever a black public official is investigated, or indicted, for criminal behavior.
Wilder, who is black, said: ''There are no 'black' public officials under criminal investigation or 'white' public officials under criminal investigation. A public official is a public official. A guilty criminal is a guilty criminal.''
It took real guts for Wilder to speak this truth, because the pressure is on for all blacks to support knee-jerk cries that ''racism'' motivates U.S. attorneys and others to probe and seek indictments of corrupt black officials in the District of Columbia, in Congress, in Detroit, in Chicago and in other cities where blacks hold political power.
Consider the nation's capital. Enough members of the administration of Mayor Marion Barry have pleaded guilty and gone to jail to make it clear that corruption exists -- corruption that cheats and dishonors black people. Why should any self-respecting black leader cry ''racism'' when it is obvious that whites are not being shielded from assaults on official corruption?
Lee Alexander, who served as mayor of Syracuse, N.Y., for 16 years, has just been indicted on charges that he extorted more than $1.4 million in bribes from those doing business with the city. In New York City, Anthony R. Ameruso, the former commissioner of transportation, has just been convicted of perjury in a continuing probe of graft and bribery within the Parking Violations Bureau. Lyn Nofziger, former aide and adviser to President Reagan, has been indicted on six counts of violating the Ethics in Government Act, and an even closer confidant of the president, Michael Deaver, will go on trial this fall on charges that he committed perjury while testifying before a grand jury about his lobbying activities.
All these people are white, so it is ludicrous to conclude that black officials are the victims of some plot to ''get'' powerful nonwhites.
Sure, I know that black officials may be watched more closely than white officials, but the answer to that is for blacks to realize this and keep their noses clean and their hands out of the public treasury.
Wilder has taken a stand under especially sensitive circumstances. James G. Holley III, the black mayor of Portsmouth, Va., faces a recall petition drive because of voter resentment of ''lavish'' out-of-town expenses and other alleged misbehavior. Voters in Petersburg, Va., have demanded the resignation of City Council member Clyde Johnson, a black Baptist preacher who has been convicted of 15 counts of molesting young girls.
In asking black leaders to ''let the chips fall where they may,'' Wilder said: ''Do the victims of crime -- of those hurt by official lawlessness -- suffer any less or greater due to the color of the victimizer?''
When black leaders cry ''wolf'' too often, leaping to defend black of-ficials who just may be as guilty assin, they do black people a disser-vice because they make it almost impossible to make protest meaningful where a real injustice is taking place.