Last summer, Deneen Borelli and I were escorted out of the NAACP convention in Tampa, Florida. We had just arrived at the main body assembly of more than 2,000 people when we were approached and asked to leave. Why? Because we were conservatives.
Before we were led from the premises, we asked many attendees a simple question: Would it be balanced to hear other sides of political discussion? This question really gets at the heart of the challenge and the hope I have for the NAACP in the wake of Ben Jealous stepping down as president and CEO last month.
New leadership could lead to a rebirth for the organization. The NAACP has a great opportunity to offer the Black community a message of empowerment instead of entitlement — something they haven’t done in 30 years. The NAACP’s predecessors challenged members of the Black community to be their best selves, to rise above politics and injustice, and to achieve the American Dream. Sadly, the organization has degenerated into a warped mindset of class warfare and divisive politics that exclude any Black Americans who hold conservative values.
Unfortunately, there are few identifiable or viable candidates to take on the challenge. Dr. Rosalind Brock, chairman of the board and the youngest person ever elected to that position, is a possible choice, as is interim president, Lorraine Miller. Electing a woman to lead the organization would be a historic choice, but whoever is elected must be able to step back from divisive politics and lead the way to a better future for the Black community.
In their choice of new leadership, the NAACP must seize the opportunity to reprogram their message to be true “advancement of colored people,” not the repression that comes from entitlement programs. True advancement comes when the young are taught to gain wealth, not envy it — to embrace a legacy of personal responsibility, not of race-baiting. It’s time to get out of contradictory mindsets. For instance, how is it logical for Black folks to make gods of wealthy sports and entertainment figures but vilify Wall Street?
If the NAACP would take on this challenge, they could at last correct a mindset that has made their followers prime targets of big government programs and the dependency that follows. Just look at the evidence after 50 years. Detroit’s minority community used to be the most prosperous in America; today progressive liberal programs have destroyed the city and the Black community remaining there. The NAACP is only aiding in Detroit’s fall, citing racism to push back against the very policies that could pull the troubled city out of bankruptcy.
Does the NAACP have the collective courage or motivation to make a dramatic statement in an important election year? This organization has been totally co-opted by the left wing of the Democratic Party, and sadly the Black church has been the main instrument of continued access. They fear becoming irrelevant in a more racially blended America, so they seem to have taken to playing the race card at every opportunity. Ben Jealous increased revenue mostly by using the tried-and-true method of “us against them.” Naturally the Obama administration has provided fertile ground for this attitude.
NAACP leaders preach in the “revival” fashion used by Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and even Joe Biden. Instead of pointing to the obvious statistics of the last five years to stimulate honest discussion on unemployment, crime and education in the Black community, the NAACP is too happy to go the easy route: blame the other side and maintain the status quo. It’s time to move past this warped mentality of class warfare.
All Black Americans deserve representation in the NAACP, regardless of political affiliation or ideology. The organization needs a new leader who recognizes this, and who will keep the greater good of the entire Black community in mind – not just the segment that holds progressive values.
Rev. CL Bryant is a former NAACP Chapter president, FreedomWorks fellow and creator of the documentary "Runaway Slave."
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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