If the very existence of a black first lady were not enough to suggest that the NAACP’s century of battles has been largely won, Michelle Obama’s topic for her keynote speech to its convention might confirm it: childhood obesity.
Now, I’m as energized as the next person about a campaign to get kids (of all races) to put down the Little Debbies and PlayStation controllers and get outside. But surely Mrs. Obama, famous for her late-arriving pride in her country, has to admit that when you have such topical latitude in addressing a civil rights group, much progress has been made.
Of course we still have racism. There will always be bitter souls (again, of all races) who just don’t like people of other colors. But today, the titanic battles once fought through our courts and Congress have atomized into countless small steps of enlightenment, through the example of every American who commits to treating everyone kindly and raising children who will do the same.
So against that backdrop, many who fancy themselves as bold soldiers have hurt the cause by exaggerating, if not inventing, narratives of racial antagonism in order to remain relevant.
If it has long been true that being a racist is one of the worst things an American can be, hasn’t the NAACP succeeded? Isn’t it time to celebrate and redefine its mission? There are enough good-hearted people out there (again, of all colors) to shout down the occasional bigot.
If the NAACP were willing to adapt to the task of responsibly monitoring periodic brushfires of real racism, I would stand with them gladly, as I would have done if I were an adult in Selma, Montgomery, Greensboro or other battlefields for real racial justice.
But with those battles won, and an entire system poised to pounce on the slightest peep of discrimination, many once-proud civil rights warriors have fallen back on some very unfortunate urges.
My jaw still drops from the June attempt by the Los Angeles NAACP to bully Hallmark into pulling a space-themed graduation card because the audio chip’s reference to “black holes” sounded – to their deluded ears – like “whores.”
Such is life when you run out of material, when the fight to hold the spotlight means fomenting discord just to keep the racial strife industry alive.
For more than 20 years, Exhibit A for this argument has been Jesse Jackson, who once nobly walked in the shadow of Martin Luther King Jr. Now Jackson is reduced to a serial nag who knows microphones will find him for a programmed attempt to throw self-aggrandizing kerosene on America’s remaining embers of prejudice.
And he again has shown his most loathsome side: concocting racism where there is precisely none. When Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert reacted angrily as LeBron James denied him and Cavs fans advance notice of his decision to bolt for Miami, disgust spread from Ohio to both coasts.
Gilbert gave voice to his revulsion online, earning Jackson’s charge that he had displayed a “slave master mentality.”
Is this what our so-called civil rights leaders are reduced to? The ravings of fraud-mongers like Al Sharpton? The lies of formerly proud heroes like U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who asserted without evidence that critics had pelted him with n-bombs as he walked to the House to cast a vote?
Born from that strain of toxic fiction is the latest NAACP ploy – a resolution falsely condemning the tea party movement as a horde of neo-Klansmen.
They even have an October march planned to answer the tea party’s non-existent hostility. When I was a child, a civil rights march was an example of America at its best. How sad that with those battles won, the inheritors of that proud legacy now stoop to such shameful depths.
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