Opportunity for the NAACP

Article excerpt


The surprise resignation of Kweise Mfume as president of the NAACP should prompt introspection and re-evaluation on the part of its national leaders.

The national leadership has lost its way. It sends a message today to the black community that is, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, destructive. Its agenda, the politics of victimization, is a caricature of the original NAACP mission.

The heads of local NAACP chapters I meet are out of step with their national leaders and sound much more like local church pastors. Perhaps because these chapter heads live close to the troubled communities with which they work, they understand black communities' problems today reflect the challenges of the business of living and not the business of politics.

As John McWhorter of the Manhattan Institute aptly said, racism is not the main problem of African-Americans today, but rather "the mundane tasks of teaching those 'left behind' after the civil rights victory how to succeed in a complex society."

The NAACP has a proud history at the center of the civil rights movement. But remember the adage that everything looks like a nail to a man with a hammer.

For years, physical, political and legal barriers stood between blacks and freedom. The NAACP and the civil rights movement were born to tear these barriers down and won historic and glorious victories.

Unfortunately, after the victories of the 1960s, black leadership, typified by the NAACP, refused to turn from the business of politics to the business of living. The leaders transformed a creative struggle for liberation into the destructive politics of anger and guilt. By turning their energies to building a new welfare state and culture of litigation, these civil rights leaders created as many problems as they solved.

On the one hand, there have been undeniable gains in the black community. A new black middle class has emerged in which the percentage of households with a real gross income above $75,000 has quadrupled since 1970. The wage gap percentage between black and white workers is half today what it was in the 1960s. Blacks now hold top positions in government and business, inconceivable 40 years ago.

Yet, a large segment of the African-American population is in sad shape and going backward. …