Project 21 New Visions

 

What the NAACP Should Do Now


by Lana Hampton

With a changing of the guard occurring at the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization has an opportunity for growth and change.

It would be in the NAACP's best interest to put itself on a more centrist course than the one it has been on for the past 40 years. After all, the protection of people's civil rights is not a left- or right-leaning ideology. It is simply a responsibility.

The loss of support the NAACP is experiencing is undoubtedly due to its lurch to the left and the feelings of many that it no longer represents all blacks, let alone all people.

Few would argue with the original goals of the NAACP. It was, and, in many ways, still is an admirable institution. But it has not changed with the times. It seems to be caught in a time warp dating back to the 1960s. The issues of relevance 40 years ago are not necessarily the same issues that are important now.

Racism was undeniably the biggest obstacle to minorities back then, but now many black communities are overrun with crime, suffering from inadequate schools and are plagued by an epidemic of single-parent homes (the leading cause of poverty).

I do not hear enough from the modern NAACP on these issues. What the NAACP needs to do is empower poor blacks instead of constantly citing a never-ending list of obstacles they claim hold blacks back.

Continuing to perpetuate the victim status of blacks will only ensure that poor blacks continue to behave like victims - and victims rarely succeed on their own. In order to achieve this, the NAACP must be blatantly honest about the ills occurring within some black communities. The left, however, has made pointing out bad choices a taboo subject.

There are some who rely too heavily on the government to sustain them. The NAACP should work on empowering these people so they can become self-sufficient. It's the old give a man a fish or teach him to fish situation.

There are many bright, capable people in our inner cities who just need positive and constructive leadership. This includes criticism along the lines of what Bill Cosby has said. Cosby's critique is not mean-spirited, as some contend, but merely an attempt to nudge people in the right direction.

It would also be beneficial for the NAACP to avoid supporting causes which are radical or just plain ridiculous. One example is its lawsuit against gun manufacturers. As Project 21 member and civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson said, "The NAACP has filed a class-action lawsuit against gun manufacturers, in effect blaming them for black on black crime, but statistics show guns don't kill black people, other blacks do."

Perhaps the most crucial change the NAACP needs to make is to actually become non-partisan. They claim to be, but they're not. One would think the IRS investigation of the group would be enough of a wake-up call to the civil rights organization, but it appears their leadership is in denial about past comments and actions.

Anyone reading NAACP chairman Julian Bond's July 11, 2004 speech, which prompted the IRS investigation, can see the partisan politics emanating from his address. It has often been said that the NAACP has become the left wing of the Democratic Party. More difficulties will arise if the group continues to endorse a political party.

At this time, however, the NAACP has an opportunity to make a fresh start. It began as an admirable organization, and it can once again return to those laudable roots. But continuing to conduct affairs in the manner that they have for the past four decades will only lead the NAACP to self-destruction.

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Lana Hampton is a member of the African-American leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.


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