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The Conservative Curmudgeon
March 26, 2009

The NAACP at l00: Where Does It Go From Here?
by Allan C. Brownfeld

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) celebrated its l00th birthday on February l2.

Its creation was stimulated by the race riots that swept through Springfield, Illinois, in the summer of l908. The quiet removal of two black men who had been in prison as suspects in two separate attacks on white people enraged the members of the white community. They took out their anger on black residents and black-owned businesses and properties in riots that lasted two days. Seven people were killed and some $200,000 worth of damage was done. The following February, a group of white and black activists met in New York to found the NAACP, whose aim was to ensure “the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”

The NAACP played a leading role in bringing down racial barriers, notably in overturning Jim Crow laws in the South and in its work on the l954 case of Brown v. Board of Education, which brought about the desegregation of schools.

Now, after the triumphs of the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, with black Americans in leadership roles in every area of our society, including the White House, many are questioning the relevance in 2009 of the NAACP.

The election of Barack Obama to the presidency and the problems that still confront many black Americans encapsulate “a moment of confusion in the black community,” says Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., a professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. “How are we to continue to talk about how race and racism determine the life chances of Americans in the context of a black man holding the presidency in his hands? We can look at the NAACP as a kind of petri dish for answering that question.”

Benjamin Jealous, who recently took over as the NAACP’s youngest president, argues that, “There are still a lot of things to be angry about. Young black people in the U.S. are the most incarcerated people in the world. They understand, by virtue of their situation and that of their peers, that the movement for civil rights in this country is very much needed, and groups that played critical roles in removing the shackles that bound our forefathers and foremothers still play a role today.”

There is, however, a big difference between pointing out that black Americans still face serious problems — and declaring that “racism” is the cause of such problems and that a renewed “civil rights” crusade would represent a step toward their solution.
            In the l960s, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), then assistant secretary of labor, produced a report entitled “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action.” He found that a quarter of black children were born to unmarried women and the percentage was rising. Today, among non-Hispanic blacks, the out-of-wedlock birth rate has reached 69.5 percent. A study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and the Urban Institute concluded that only 50 percent of black students graduate from high school. For male students, the figures are even worse. Only 43 percent of black males graduate.

It is not white “racism” that is responsible for this situation. Professor Orlando Patterson, a sociologist at Harvard, says that it is a culture of self-destructiveness that is holding black men back. According to Patterson, a so-called “cool-pose culture” that includes “hanging out in the street, dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music” is just too gratifying to give up.

Another respected black commentator, John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes in Winning The Race: Beyond The Crisis In Black America that, “In poor black Chicago in the l920s, it was considered alarming that just l5 percent of babies were born out of wedlock. By the late seventies, a whole generation of black people had grown up in neighborhoods where it was peculiar if a baby was born to a married couple, women living on the government was the norm, and young men had no reason to take care of the children they created....

“A major difference between then and now is the sense among many black teens that doing well in school is culturally inauthentic, ‘acting white.’ This only became common coin among young blacks in the late l960s, as the national mood embraced an especially open misidentification with the Establishment...”    

In the years of segregation, the black family was intact. Its disintegration can hardly be called the result of “white racism,” since that decline accelerated during the period of racism’s most dramatic decline. McWhorter asks: “Why did we not have the inner-city plagues so familiar to us when the best that all but a few blacks could expect was menial labor, whites were hanging black men from trees on a regular basis, and the police — or even just a gang of ‘hooligans’ — could beat a black person senseless without it even making the papers.... It must stop being considered ‘controversial’ to acknowledge that cultural change played a central role here.”

               The NAACP’s Benjamin Jealous says that, “There are still a lot of things to be angry about.” He cites the incarceration rate of young black people. He points to unemployment statistics for black Americans — before the recent dramatic downturn — at l2.6 percent compared with 6.9 percent for white Americans. Their life expectancy is five years less, and black infant mortality rates are twice the national average.

                Mr. Jealous may be correct in being angry. He should point his anger to the real causes of these statistical disparities, which are not “white racism,” but the decline and disintegration of values within the black community itself.  The doors of opportunity are open. There are no more glass ceilings. But to walk through those doors, we need intact families and a commitment to education and hard work.

                Robert Woodson, founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, points out that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the highest form of maturity is the willingness to be self-critical. “Unfortunately,” says Woodson, “we seem to only be willing to talk about race when whites are portrayed as villains and blacks as victims. Those of us who have been active in the civil rights movement must move beyond these limited confines, and lead an honest dialogue that confronts some of the troubling questions, past and present, that are internal to the black community.... The emphasis on race is overshadowing the fact that increasing numbers of our children are being lost in a frenzy of self-destruction....”

                Former NAACP Board Chairman Myrlie Evers-Williams, who was married to the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, declares:  “We've got to rise to the occasion today. We cannot continue to sing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ It is s a dear, valuable song that expresses a time that should live within us. But I want a new song.”

See this article at NewsBlaze.com

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The Conservative Curmudgeon is copyright © 2009 by Allan C. Brownfeld and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. Editors may use this column if this copyright information is included.

Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Subcommittee.

He is associate editor of The Lincoln Reveiw and a contributing editor to such publications as Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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