“I thank God that most of the money that supports the NAACP comes from Black hands; a still larger proportion must so come, and we must not only support but ‘control’ this and similar organizations and hold them unwaveringly to our objects, our aims and our ideals.” W.E.B. DuBois wrote those words in The Crisis Magazine in 1915. Ironically, what was written in The Crisis has now become the crisis in the NAACP and other so-called Black organizations.
Established in 1909, yes, by White folks, Blacks put their money up and supported the NAACP. Today, nearly a century later, the NAACP and many of its local chapters would go out of business if they did not receive money from non-Black corporations and individuals whose “controlling interests” have reduced the NAACP to paper-tiger status in many of our communities.
Fast forward to 2017: After 108 years in existence, NAACP interim President Derrick Johnson has to defend the relevancy of the supposedly Black civil rights organization by saying, “If you move across this landscape and in many communities, the NAACP is the ‘only’ vehicle individuals have to raise their voice and ‘ensure’ that democracy exists.” If the NAACP is the “only” vehicle we have to raise our voices, Black folks are in a world of trouble.
Johnson said Donald Trump’s policies, statements and actions hurt “all” Americans, and the mission of the NAACP even refers to “equality of rights of ‘all’ persons,” which is inconsistent with its name – i.e., the “advancement of colored people.” Newsflash! “All” persons are not in need of equality of rights; “colored people” are. Johnson went on to say, “[The] NAACP has never been a large city operation. It is in communities where no one knows of them.” That statement is lacking at best, the Shelby County Alabama vs. Holder case that he cited, notwithstanding.
Johnson railed against Trump’s executive order to lift the ban on military-style weaponry and attire for state and local law enforcement agencies, but then said, “Unfortunately, elections have consequences … We have to deal with some of these executive orders until 2020.” Didn’t he say the NAACP is the “only” organization to “ensure” democracy exists?
Then Johnson pulled out that tried and true, tired and tepid NAACP mantra by saying voting remains a major subject for the NAACP going into next year’s midterm elections. “For the first time, I can agree that this is the ‘most important election’ coming up … Voting is paramount,” he said.
He also addressed several NAACP concerns including racist statues, monuments and flags on public property (no mention of the Edmund Pettus Bridge or Stone Mountain) and the NAACP’s willingness to meet with Trump, but only to discuss policy “proposals” (not demands) and the domestic terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Finally, reaching once again into the NAACP toolkit, Johnson said voting is the catalyst to improve communities and change public policy, and added this confusing statement: “Those who have the right to vote have say. Those who don’t, don’t. Your vote is your currency. If you’re bankrupt and you go to the store, you can’t purchase anything. If you’re exercising your currency and you collect that currency with others who have your interest, you can purchase the grocery store.” All I can say to that is, “SAY WHAT?” Oh yes, I can also repeat something Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will see every problem as though it’s a nail.”
So here we go again, y’all; in the NAACP’s eyes, we have the same problem, so we should use the same tool and therefore get the same results, right? With the exception of Bruce Gordon, NAACP leaders have, for decades, told us that voting is the answer to our problems. Obviously, they have no other solution and no other tool except a hammer to offer Black folks, from whom they get most of their support, as DuBois said. So what’s next? The NAACP will help prepare and offer solutions to register voters (don’t we know how to do that by now?).
“This will help educate voters on what’s going on in their communities,” said Hillary Shelton, who presides over the D.C. office. “We know from what we do in Washington, impacts people all over the country and frankly the world.” Not a large city organization, huh? Get real.
The best thing about the national NAACP is the work of Sherrilyn Ifill and her staff. I truly admire and respect her, as well as the work done by some of the branches around the country. But other than that, to the question of “What’s new at the NAACP,” the answer is: “Absolutely nothing!”
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the author of Black Dollar$ Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense. He can be reached through http://www.blackonomics.com.