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Monday, October 23, 2006

R.I.P. NAACP 1909 - 2006

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or NAACP is dead and someone forgot to write the obituary. No, you say? Then demonstrate proof of life.

Name something notable or significant that the NAACP has done in the last 5 years? In the last 10 years? Or in the last 15 years?

Can you point to a protest, a march, a demonstration, a strike, a sit-in, a boycott, an election, a picketing, a work stoppage, a major court case, an act of civil disobedience, a speech, a documentary, a television show, an advertisement, an award, a book, a sound bite, a photo, or a YouTube video from the last fifteen years that shows the NAACP doing anything important or newsworthy to advance people of color?

Perhaps the NAACP died in 1991 after their voter registration campaign in Louisiana yielded a 76 percent turnout of black voters to defeat Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke for the United States Senate. Was that their final victory?

Rosa Parks in 1955, with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the background.Or perhaps the NAACP symbolically died a year ago this week when Rosa Parks passed away on October 24, 2005.

At a memorial service in Montgomery, Alabama, for Rosa Parks, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that if it had not been for Rosa Parks, she would probably have never become the Secretary of State. Rosa Parks' casket was transported to Washington, D.C. and taken, aboard a bus similar to the one in which she made her protest, to lay in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. She was the first woman and second African American ever to receive this honor. An estimated 50,000 people viewed the casket there, and the event was broadcast on television on October 31, 2005.

Rosa Parks was born in 1913. The NAACP was founded in 1909. It is hard to imagine the modern civil rights movement existing without the presence of both Parks and the NAACP. Parks joined the NAACP in 1943 and became a lifetime member.

If you asked anyone under the age of forty what the NAACP is, they would probably confuse it with the NCAA and think it has something to do with college athletics. The full name of the organization is an anachronism and it had a diverse group of founders. Wikipedia notes:

The NAACP was founded by a diverse group on February 12, 1909 by WEB Dubois (African American Man), Ida Wells-Barnett (African American Woman), Henry Moscowitz (Jewish male), Mary White Ovington (White woman), Oswald Garrison Villard (German born white male), and William English Walling (white male and son of a former slave owning family, to work on behalf of the rights of colored people including Native Americans, African Americans, as well as Jews. Its name, retained in accord with tradition, is one of the last surviving uses of the term "colored people". This is now generally viewed as dated and derogatory. In the historical context of the NAACP, however, the term is not considered offensive.
The NAACP is dead because it no longer serves a clearly defined mission and younger blacks could care less about it. Why do African Americans (or Native Americans, or Jews for that matter) need to support the NAACP? Should they support if for civil rights, education reform, healthcare reform, economic opportunity, voter rights, or due process and criminal justice rights. Can one organization do all these things for all Black Americans?

Blacks are doing well in this country, thank you very much, due to the past work of the NAACP and many others in the civil rights movement. But the time for the NAACP has passed and it is no longer a champion of social justice.

Tiger Woods Condoleezza Rice

Colin Powell - former Sec. of State Michael Jordan

One recent social justice issue that the NAACP became involved in was the death penalty case of former gang leader, Stanley "Tookie" Williams. In late 2005, the NAACP joined with many anti-death penalty organizations and the ACLU in seeking to urge California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant clemency to Stanley "Tookie" Williams, because he had "become a strong voice against gangs, violence and drugs."

Stanley Williams was one of the founders of the Crips, a violent Los Angeles gang. Williams was convicted in 1979 for the deaths of four people. "While in prison, Williams refused to aid police investigations with any information against his gang, and was implicated in attacks on guards and other inmates as well as multiple escape plots. In 1993, Williams began making changes in his behavior, and became an anti-gang activist while on Death Row."

The NAACP was a follower, not a leader in the campaign to save "Tookie" Williams. They only held four small rallies in California in protest of the execution. The ACLU took the lead in getting more than 175,000 Californians to sign a petition requesting the temporary suspension of executions in California until the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice could complete its study due by Dec. 31, 2007.

Governor Schwarzenegger held a clemency hearing on Dec. 8, 2005, and he did not grant clemency. Williams was executed by lethal injection on December 13, 2005.

The NAACP played a minor role in the "Tookie" Williams campaign. It looked like it was just going through the motions for old times sake. That seems typical of its record of social activism during the past fifteen years. The Williams campaign was not even worthy of mention on the NAACP history page at their own website. The NAACP lists the following, as its notable accomplishments since 1990:

1991 When avowed racist and former Klan leader David Duke runs for US Senate in Louisiana, the NAACP launches a voter registration campaign that yields a 76 percent turn-out of Black voters to defeat Duke.

1992 The number of Fair Share Program corporate partners has risen to 70 and now represents billions of dollars in business.

1995 Over thirty years after the assassination of NAACP civil rights activist, Medgar Evers - his widow Myrlie, is elected Chairman of the NAACP's Board of Directors. The following year, the Kweisi Mfume leaves Congress to become the NAACPs President and CEO.

1997 In response to the pervasive anti-affirmative action legislation occurring around the country, the NAACP launches the Economic Reciprocity Program... And in response to increased violence among our youth, the NAACP starts the "Stop The Violence, Start the Love' campaign.

1998 Supreme Court Demonstration and arrests

2000 TV Diversity Agreements. Retirement of the Debt and first six years of a budget surplus. Largest Black Voter Turnout in 20 years

2000 Great March. January 17, in Columbia, South Carolina attended by over 50,000 to protest the flying of the Confederate Battle Flag. This is the largest civil rights demonstration ever held in the South to date.

2001 Cincinnati Riots. Development of 5 year Strategic Plan. Under the leadership of Chairman Bond and President Mfume, the NAACP continues to thrive, and with the help of everyone - regardless of race - will continue to do so into the next millennium...

It is a short list. It has been five years since the NAACP has done anything worth mentioning on its own website.

The recent record is not much better at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund website. The last case worth mentioning there is also from 2001:
2001 - Cromartie v. Hunt; Daly v. Hunt

The Supreme Court rules that a lower court should not have ruled that North Carolina’s redrawn Twelfth Congressional District, which re-elected African-American Congressman Mel Watt, was a racial gerrymander without conducting a trial, because creation of a district with a significant concentration of minority voters is not unconstitutional when the district is drawn for partisan political reasons and minority voters tend to vote for one political party rather than the other.
So it has been five years since the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has documented a significant case?

Consider yourself a real political/policy expert if you can name the current president and CEO of the NAACP or any its leaders for the past twenty years. What does that say about the quality of the leadership that the NAACP has had? If you think of black leaders you still think of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. It is interesting to note that the Jesse Jackson biography page on Wikipedia.org does not have one mention of the NAACP. Jackson organized the Rainbow Coalition in 1984.

Regarding the current concerns of the NAACP, Wikipedia.org said:
The Internal Revenue Service informed the NAACP in October 2004 that it was undertaking an investigation into its tax-exempt status, focusing on a speech given by Julian Bond at its 2004 Convention in which he criticized President George W. Bush, as well as other political figures. The NAACP has denounced the investigation as retaliation for its campaign involvement, and refuses to supply the information that the IRS has requested regarding such activities.
So it seems the NAACP is currently worried about tax evasion. Dick Grasso and the NYSE proved that just because an organization is designated a non-profit, does not mean someone can't make an obscene profit.

USA Today reported:
The organization faces problems ranging from stagnant membership (at about a half-million for the past decade) and budget troubles (a $4.7 million shortfall last year) to an IRS audit (questioning its non-profit status) and management problems at Baltimore headquarters (accusations that as president, Kweisi Mfume showed favoritism to female employees he was dating; he denies the allegations).
The NAACP website demonstrates that it is currently focusing on education, not the justice system, as its main priority.

Today her teacher did not ask her name for the 15th time.
The NAACP says they are now "working to ensure an equal high-quality public education for all minority children." It would be interesting if someone could document any overtures the NAACP has made toward the Hispanic community or other minority community regarding working together for high-quality public education. A brief search didn't find any reports of collaboration.

Bruce S. Gordon was selected in 2005 to head the NAACP. He also sits on the Board of Directors of the CBS corporation. On July 17, 2006, Gordon gave an address to the 97th NAACP Convention in which he said:
The NAACP has been mighty, but we need to be mighty again....

The framework for the 21st century NAACP advocacy agenda touches education, healthcare, economic empowerment, criminal justice and civic engagement. We've tried to build out some capacity in international affairs. Our approach is straightforward. There is a gap between those who have and those who don't. Our mission, close the gap. We put programs in place to make that happen...

We opened this convention -- some of you were here, some of you were not -- we opened this convention on Saturday with a focus on HIV/AIDS. Simply stated, let's not say this fancy: HIV/AIDS is killing our community. It's killing us...

"The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to insure the political, education, social and economic equality of rights of all persons, and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination."
"Has been mighty, but we need to be mighty again," is a nice way for Gordon to say the NAACP has been dead for years.

The mission statement for the NAACP is very broad in Gordon's speech. It includes fighting AIDS, education, healthcare, economic empowerment, and yes, criminal justice, and civil engagement, whatever that is. Voting rights was left off Gordon's agenda since Congress had just reauthorized the Voting Rights Act without too much of a delay for politicking. Gordon's agenda sounds like a platform for a political party. But the NAACP does not claim to be a political party.

The NAACP like many last century organizations is trying to stay alive by staying relevant. So they have been floundering around trying to find that big issue to focus on, in order to build their membership. The NAACP is a membership organization and an annual adult membership costs $30.

The problem is that they have lost focus and died while floundering around looking for an issue the would grab the attention of their target audience. Their mission has become a muddled mess. Do they really want to become a "Save the Children" through better education organization? What does the NAACP stand for in the 21st century? This loss of focus along with demographic changes, and its abandonment of its core ideals is why the organization has died.

Fraternal and social organizations that were popular in the 20th Century such as the Kiwanis, the Elks, the Shriners, the Rotary, and The Lions Clubs are all fighting to stay alive as their aging memberships die off and younger people are not interested in joining them.

The NAACP is really no different than these other dying fraternal and social organizations. African Americans are no longer the largest minority in the United States. Hispanics are now 12.5% of the U.S. population and growing much faster than African American who are at 12.3% of the population. What percentage of the NAACP membership is under the age of forty?

That brings us to the present sorry state of affairs regarding the NAACP's behavior in the Duke lacrosse incident. The Duke case is the final epitaph for the NAACP.

KC Johnson and William L. Anderson have both recently written critiques of the NAACP's failures regarding its traditional roles as watchdog of judicial due process and a champion of social justice in the Duke case.

As both men point out the NAACP has failed miserably in Durham. Specifically, with regard to changes in venue, gag orders and free speech, procedures and criminal identifications. William L. Anderson concludes:
That is a hard question to ask, but if I read the case correctly, apparently people like [local NAACP spokesperson, North Carolina Central University law professor Irving] Joyner are so desirous of gaining a conviction of three innocent whites that they are willing to sacrifice the lives and freedom of blacks who will be tried in future cases. That should tell us everything we need to know about Irving Joyner, and about the NAACP. If this organization wishes to lose all its credibility just to railroad through a wrongful conviction, then it is an organization that has lost all of its moral bearings. Indeed, it is obvious that the NAACP really had no problem with Jim Crow justice, or at least a modern-day version of it. That is most chilling of all.
NCAAP president Bruce Gordon in his speech to the NAACP convention, in July, quoted Martin Luther King's famous line: "Injustice somewhere is a threat to justice everywhere." However, he messed the line up slightly, it should be: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." It's a metaphor for the NAACP not paying close attention anymore to legal injustices, especially to a grave injustice in Durham, North Carolina.

The NAACP logo includes the scales of justice. It is another anachronism of an organization that lost its moral compass and died as it tried to find a way to survive in the 21st century. Writing the obituary of the NAACP will be one lasting legacy of the Duke lacrosse case.



sources:
NAACP president to take helm [USAToday.com, July 13, 2006]
The NAACP and Jim Crow Justice [William L. Anderson, Oct. 21, 2006]
Nifong Tarnishes the NAACP [KC Johnson, Aug. 16, 2006]

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