The NAACP is lost, and radicals like Melissa Harris-Perry have some suggestions for a new direction. Unfortunately, they’ll send the organization further down its current path toward irrelevance.
The famed civil rights group, founded in 1909 and instrumental in challenging state-sponsored segregation and lobbying for the Voting Rights Act, has been in decline for some time, with infighting plaguing chapters like the one in Cincinnati.
James Clingman, who served in leadership roles there, wrote recently that national officials were intimidating members to get them to fall in line. In 2014, things at the Philadelphia chapter came to a head when three board members were “exiled” after the president accused them of misusing funds for personal purposes.
In a 2015 interview with the Boston University alumni magazine, Cornell William Brooks, at the time the president of the NAACP, bemoaned the fact that the press paid little attention to his organization except to ask its leaders when the group will regain relevance: “It wasn’t always the first question, but it was always one of the first three.”
Apparently, whatever answer Brooks gave wasn’t the right one, because last week the organization just ousted him after only three years. Derrick Johnson, the vice chairman of the organization, explained, “We are in a transitional moment . . . This is the opportune time to begin to look at all our functions as an association and see, are we the right fit for the current reality?”
So what’s the current reality? Well, it’s not what it was at the organization’s founding or its apex 50 years ago. African-Americans have full legal rights. Hate crimes are anomalies. Black people are running corporations, universities and until recently the White House.
But some activists seem to think little has changed. “The NAACP carries the weight of history and burden of bureaucracy,” wrote Harris-Perry, a Wake Forest University professor, in the New York Times. “But it does not seem willing to shed blood, literally or in terms of the uncomfortable work that characterizes effective activism.”
What do these activists need to “shed blood” over? Police violence against young blacks, to start with. Harris-Perry, whose tendency to exaggerate was evident when she invoked the legacy of slavery after MSNBC canceled her TV show, wrote that the trauma of a not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman “laid bare the bloodiness of [young black] lives.” She mentions Michael Brown and Eric Garner as well.
Harris-Perry’s real goal is not just to send the NAACP back out into the streets for some possibly bloody protests.
She also wants to expand its mission to include the defense of illegal immigrants and LGBTQ people, among others: “Is [the NAACP] ready to have as its president a young person just out of foster care who, because he is transgender and black, lived with vulnerabilities many can’t imagine?”
Probably not. But whether it’s because of some academic notion of “intersectionality” (where all “prejudice” is subsumed into one category) or some kind of political calculus, the left insists on blending all of its supposedly issues-based organizations into one blob — which has in turn become a wing of the Democratic Party.
The NAACP voted last year to support teachers unions and oppose charter schools — even though most black people support school choice. Members of the National Organization for Women are now supposed to support not just equal pay but partial-birth abortion, even though most women oppose it.
And heretics are purged. A recent obituary for feminist crusader Roxcy Bolton in the Times explained that she helped form the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1966 but later became persona non grata when she refused to go along with the organization’s embrace of a lesbian caucus.
The new direction for the NAACP may be a bridge too far, though. At the separate black graduation ceremony that was held for students at Brown University last week, one observer noted that “keynote speaker Lisa Gelobter ’91 was met with stony silence when she spoke of her transgender nephew’s right to use the bathroom corresponding with his chosen gender identity.”
If the new agenda for black activists has become too progressive for Ivy League grads, maybe it’s time instead for the NAACP to try something different.
?Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.