From Justice to Joke: The Fall of the NAACP

As we commemorate the 46th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it seems appropriate to assess the current state of one of the key organizations which was in the arena, engaged in the fight leading up to its passage.

Every great warrior that lives to fight numerous battles knows they can’t fight forever. Some accept the verdict of time and move on to the next phase of their lives with their dignity intact, receiving the honor of their peers and countrymen for their valor.

There are those, however, who struggle to keep fighting long after their skills have deteriorated, and their colleagues are embarrassed for them as they stumble on the field of battle, a mere shadow of their former greatness. In that spirit, I think it’s time for someone to tell the NAACP to lay down their sword and shield before they further humiliate themselves and the people they claim to represent.

I’m sure many of us can point to the signs over the years that signaled the organization was nearing the end of its useful life. It has increasing become more strident and isolated as it has proven inadequate to address today’s challenges. It’s as if the organization is stuck in a time warp where it’s perpetually 1955 and we’re all still being forced to the back of the bus.

Two episodes this year, however, epitomized the NAACP’s slide into irrelevance.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the old joke about California being comprised of fruits and nuts, but the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP wins the “fruitcake of the year” award for their recent demand that Hallmark pull a certain greeting card from the shelves of stores in the Los Angeles area.

In what looked like a setup for a Dave Chappelle skit, a group of solemn, middle-aged black people stood around a microphone-bedecked lectern, and declared an outer space themed Hallmark graduation audio card was racist because the character uttered the phrase “black hole.”

Here’s where the Dave Chappelle humor comes in. It’s not that they find the phrase “black hole” offensive, though I’ve heard some blacks do take offense at the term; I guess they think these outer space phenomena were named by a sect of racist astronomers.

No, it’s that they believe the character is actually saying “black ho.” The TV report shows these middle-aged to elderly black women listening to the card and declaring that the character is indeed uttering the phrase “black ho.”

Now, as I’m listening to the video of this episode, I’m hearing the same audio they heard, without the benefit of being physically present and hearing the audio card first-hand. I can hear the character in the card clearly and unmistakably saying “black hole.”

Frankly, as this story made the rounds of the news sites and blogosphere, I felt a little sorry for these folks. They looked old enough to be my parents or grandparents, and here they were being ridiculed by the entire nation. Nonetheless, Hallmark took them seriously enough to pull the card off the shelves, a card that had been in circulation for three years without complaint.

The notion that a major American corporation today would even produce something for sale that was racially offensive is foolish on its face. I’ve been in the corporate world, and they are exacting about issues related to race, gender and diversity in general, both within the workplace and in their dealings with customers.

The Los Angeles NAACP press conference was a pathetic, sad display by an organization that is practically out of reasons to exist and is reduced to imagining racial slights from audio greeting cards. These public displays of pique make us seem thin-skinned and hypersensitive or, in this specific instance, hard of hearing and delusional.

Nothing, however, prepared me for what the national office of the NAACP did this week. Mere days before the anniversary of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous issued a statement praising Senator Robert F. Byrd of West Virginia, who died on June 28th.

He said Byrd's life “reflects the transformative power of this nation…[He] went from being an active member of the KKK to a being a stalwart supporter of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and many other pieces of seminal legislation that advanced the civil rights and liberties of our country.”

Jealous went on to say, “He stood with us on many issues of crucial importance to our members from the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, the historic health-care legislation of 2010 and his support for the Hate Crimes Prevention legislation.” He concludes by saying, “Senator Byrd was a master of the Senate Rules, and helped strategize passage of legislation that helped millions of Americans…He will be sorely missed.”

Never in my most fevered moments would I have imagined the NAACP praising a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, a man their statement erroneously credited with support for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act when, in fact, he stood in virulent opposition to both.

He was part of an 83-day filibuster, using his expertise as “master of the Senate Rules” to block the Civil Rights Act from passage. He personally filibustered the bill for 14 hours. President Johnson eventually turned to Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen and the Republicans to help him broker a deal with supportive Democrats and break the filibuster.

He also voted against Thurgood Marshall’s appointment as the nation’s first black Supreme Court Justice. He opposed statehood for D.C., and voted against vouchers for poor, mostly black children in D.C. to attend private schools. As recently as 2001, he publicly uttered the phrase “white nigger” twice in the same interview, and was forced to apologize for the use of the term.

I know he publicly changed his views over the years and apologized for his racist past. As a Christian, I’m commanded to forgive others as I’ve been forgiven. Only God knows the true nature of his heart, and he now stands before Him in judgment to determine his eternal destiny. Given the totality of his history, however, I think an appropriate response of the NAACP to his passing would have been silence.

Much of the NAACP’s praise for Senator Byrd revolved around his support for government social programs that have destroyed black families, turned millions of us into permanent wards of the federal government, and held us in a perpetual state of victimhood and isolation from the greater society. As Daily Caller columnist Mike Riggs declares in a recent article, the NAACP could forgive even a former Klansman as long as he kept filling up the trough.

In my book, Sellout: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch, I point out the fact that white liberal politicians, when caught in a racist gaffe, are quick to rattle off all the wonderful things they do for black people:

One of the more amusing things about white liberal Democrats is that, every now and then, their true feelings about black people will slip out and the resulting firestorm has them stumbling all over themselves to not only apologize, but also to tell blacks all the great things they’ve done to advance their civil rights.

Yeah, those things have worked so well that we have a permanent underclass of black people without strong families, without quality education, without jobs and without hope.

When it comes to substantive reform, like the repeal of the death tax so black families and businesses can inherit and build generational wealth, Senator Bryd and the NAACP were in lockstep against it. The percentage of black wealth in America hasn’t changed since the Civil War, but the NAACP is so afraid that white people might also benefit from a repeal of the death tax that they don’t care if blacks are hurt by its retention in the tax code.

What about parental choice in schools so our black youth can get a quality education and break the cycle of poverty, homelessness, indiscriminate procreation, crime and death? Not a chance with Senator Byrd and his bosom buddies at the NAACP. They’d rather see sub-50% graduation rates, and reading and mathematics scores in the bottom tier, than try and save today’s generation, and those that follow, from hopelessness and despair.

If you’re a dues-paying member of the NAACP, thinking their mission is to help black people, I encourage you to look around for organizations that are working in your neighborhoods to address the real problems plaguing the black community.

In my county, a chapter of the Concerned Black Men has mentored black boys and taught them everything from job interview skills to proper table etiquette for 15 years. The organization also offers annual scholarships to young black students from the four local high schools.

Many churches offer training in business development and finance so aspiring black entrepreneurs can establish financial independence and build legacy wealth they can pass to their children.

Charter schools are raising graduation rates and test scores in some of the most challenging urban areas in the nation, and they are exposing the lie that black children cannot or will not learn.

If black people are to stand side by side with their fellow Americans as equal heirs to the American dream, they will do so through higher levels of education, economic independence, and the development of practical life skills, so they can be victors rather than victims.

The reason I titled my book Sellout is because that’s the charge often levied against black conservatives like me for promoting self-reliance over collective victimhood and grievance politics.

After the NAACP’s warm embrace of Senator Byrd, who exchanged the visible and violent racism of the Klan for the condescending and insidious racism of government dependency, I’ve no doubt as to who is really the sellout here. And I don’t need an audio greeting card to know that.