Can you imagine Black Life in America if there was no NAACP? It seems that over time the group served a vital purpose for African Americans; but these days and across cultures, the NAACP is about as significant as "Members Only" jackets.
At the NAACP's 101st convention, the head of the Kansas City branch got the organization's members to pass a meaningless resolution urging people to "oppose the tea party." Sadly, the resolution was deceitful and overly political. With the "Tea Party declaration" and other such tomfoolery abound, isn't it time to address "the NAACP problem"? Black Americans have good reasons to be upset with the NAACP. But, in our considerations we should not be too critical of NAACP missteps. Let's first admit that Blacks are often more comfortable criticizing the NAACP than affirming the work they do.
First, what role does the NAACP play in your life? With the declaration against the Tea Party, cries bellowed across America that the NAACP was "out of touch." Not only was the "out of touch" narrative among White Conservatives, it resounded among masses of Blacks also. Not only is the NAACP in danger of losing its relevancy, attention is on the NAACP's President and CEO Ben Jealous, and as to whether he has lost his way. Since taking the helm, in his efforts to highlight the NAACP, Jealous has just plain drawn the wrong kind of attention. In addition to the "exposing racism in the Tea Party" gambit, Jealous & Company showed awful decision-making awarding Colin Powell its highest Image Award; but it is an issue of an economic injustice to Black Newspapers that has caused the most concern over Jealous and his racial pride and consciousness. Advertising revenue maintains Black Newspapers and Jealous admits that "a grave mistake was made" when advertising inserts were placed only in White newspapers on the eve of the annual image awards. Jealous said: "This year's NAACP Image Awards show was a great success. However, the advertising circulars that were supposed to appear in both the mainstream press and Black community newspapers only appeared in the mainstream (White) press."
The advertising debacle sparked a firestorm of criticism from the Black Press. Ironically, Jealous is a former employee of the Black Press - former association executive director and editor of The Jackson Advocate. Jealous, like so many Blacks today, either forgot, or distains, where he came from. New York Beacon's Publisher Walter Smith wrote in an editorial, "We credit leaders of the NAACP with good sound judgment and common sense at least. What were they thinking when this decision was made?"
We all make mistakes, so even if Jealous and his NAACP cohorts were wrong on the resolution, Powell Award and acts that look like "Whites' ice is colder"; we must also be careful to not be equally wrong in our rebukes of them. We each need to assess as to which side of the ledger do we fall regarding whether the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and United Negro College Fund: 1) promote racism or 2) take care of their own? Many of us are at a juncture as to whether we are race-conscious or "colorblind." We are in moment where the national dialogue around race hinges around the fear of Whites being taken advantage of by people of color. Whether the discussion is Affirmative Action or immigration, it's being suggested that Whites are the "true victims" of contemporary racism. This could not be any further from the truth. Black people remain disproportionately poor, locked out of quality neighborhoods and schools, and suffer from individual, structural, and institutional racism. While the election of Obama marked a watershed moment in coalition political participation, it neither erased nor filled-in the fault line of racial inequality.
Black Americans need to give more positive attention and reverence to the NAACP. Do you know (or care) who runs your local NAACP? For more of us to grow, we all should acknowledge and support the work the NAACP does.
William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org