NAACP Hasn’t Advanced Anything in a Long Time

Apropos President Bush’s notable snubbing of the group, John McWhorter has an op-ed in today’s LA Times called, “NAACP Hasn’t Advanced Anything in a Long Time.”

The NAACP is stuck in a mind-set that worked 30 years ago but makes little sense today. Mfume and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond boast that the organization is committed to “speaking truth to power,” continuing the whistle-blowing tradition that the organization was founded upon in 1909. This was urgent in an America where lynching was commonplace and segregation was legal. But almost a century later, black America’s main problem is neither overt racism nor more subtle “societal” racism. Lifting blacks up is no longer a matter of getting whites off our necks. We are faced, rather, with the mundane tasks of teaching those “left behind” after the civil rights victory how to succeed in a complex society — one in which there will never be a second civil rights revolution.

To be sure, racism still exists and must be stamped out. But it has been clearly and distinctly marginalized. And it is simply a fallacy to say that the only way people can achieve is when there is absolutely no bias whatsoever against them. The burgeoning of the black middle class has made it clear that societal racism doesn’t condemn African Americans to failure. Yet Mfume and the NAACP’s anger-based politics imply that black success can only be accidental unless the playing field is completely level. Instead of insisting on that, they should be working on specific cures to specific ills: creating a culture of achievement among black students, addressing the AIDS crisis in black communities and fostering constructive relationships between police forces and residents of minority neighborhoods.

These real problems are being addressed, but not by the NAACP. The National Urban League forges ties between blacks and corporate America. The Rev. Eugene Rivers’ Ten-Point Coalition is spreading from Boston to other cities, getting wayward black youth off of the streets and into constructive lives. Operation Hope in Los Angeles helps poor minorities get home loans. Geoffrey Canada has the nation’s attention with his Harlem Children’s Zone program, blanketing 60 underprivileged blocks with a raft of uplift programs presented to each resident in the district, door by door. There was a time when there couldn’t be a discussion of racial issues without mentioning the NAACP. Where are the signature studies that it used to commission, such as “Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1919,” which helped to eradicate the practice, or the Margold Report of 1930, which set the ball rolling for the dismantling of segregation? What innovative and sustained race initiative has the NAACP directed lately?

Good question.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Race and Politics, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jem says:

    “Vote Democrat!” and “Whitey is still out to get us, so you must generously support the NAACP” seem to be the only initiatives for the NAACP in the last several years.