Friday, July 17, 2009

NAACP Has Role: Hold Obama Accountable

President Barack Obama speaks during the NAACP's 100th anniversary convention Thursday in New York. He told the crowd, "Government must be a force for equality. But ... we also have to seize our own destiny, each and every day."

July 17, 2009

BY MARY MITCHELL Chicago Sun-Times Columnist

With President Obama in the White House, planners of the NAACP's 100th anniversary celebration didn't have to worry about the president accepting its invitation to speak.

Crowned as the first African-American president of the United States, Obama got his swagger on before the creme de la creme of civil rights activists.

And the centennial celebration is rich with symbolism for both the prestigious civil rights organization and the first black president.

The NAACP emerged from the bloody Springfield race riots that killed seven people and destroyed scores of businesses and homes during the summer of 1908.

On Feb. 12, 1909, one hundred years after the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the NAACP was founded.

Nearly 100 years after that --also in February -- Obama stood in the shadows of the Old State Capitol in Springfield and channeled Lincoln in calling on a "house divided" to "stand together" and announced his candidacy for president of the United States.

Although Obama was referred to as a black candidate, he could not run a campaign that looked like it was carrying the banner of black America, nor could he accept the support of several established black leaders because whites considered them too controversial.

So while he is called the first black president, Obama has not been free to be a black president.

Indeed, even on the occasion of an anniversary speech before the NAACP, Obama's remarks were carefully framed to be inclusive.

For instance, he told the NAACP that his administration is working hard to "lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity that will put opportunity within reach not just for African Americans, but for all Americans."

Coincidentally, Thursday also marked the 25th anniversary of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's electrifying speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. It was the culmination of a race in which he won five primaries and caucuses and garnered 3.5 million votes, an amazing feat for a man inextricably identified with the civil rights movement.

Obama's existence is an obvious illustration of the racial progress in this country since Jackson's historic run.

But the fact that a black man is in the White House is prompting some of you to question the need for an organization like the NAACP.

To your way of thinking, the last racial barrier has been broken.

Hold on a minute. There is not a black president in the White House. There is a president in the White House who happens to be black.

As such, like all other presidents, he will have to be pushed into paying attention to the black agenda.

Consider this: When Bill Clinton was in the White House, Jackson practically had keys. But who from the grass roots of black America is speaking regularly to Obama about the issues that specifically relate to black people?

Jackson is on the outside looking in. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright has been banished. Minister Louis Farrakhan won't get an audience. The Rev. Al Sharpton is operating on the fringes.

Meanwhile, Latino leaders are rallying for a revamped immigration bill, and leaders in the gay and lesbian community are being vocal about their policy concerns.

The NAACP and other civil rights organizations will still have to agitate on behalf of black people on several fronts, including reforming the criminal justice system, getting a bigger slice of the funding to fight HIV/AIDS and overhauling our nation's failing education system.

In doing so, the NAACP and other civil rights organizations must be as colorblind as the Obama administration. By that, I mean the nation's oldest civil rights organization has to hold the nation's first black president as accountable as other presidents.

Best known for its battles against segregation in schools, the military and the federal government, the NAACP must now tackle the self-imposed ills facing black America, including drug abuse, crime and low academic achievement, while pressuring the Obama White House to adopt a comprehensive plan to fix the nation's deteriorating urban centers.

Now is not the time for the NAACP to bow out.

In the Obama era, it will take the clout of this century-old organization just to make sure African Americans stay in the game.

See Also...

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special:Reflections On The 2009 Inauguration Part One:

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: Yes He Did...So Now What??? Defining The Obama Presidency...

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special:O Yes We Did!!! The Barack Obama Tribute...

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: Barack Obama & The Hip Hop Effect On American Politics:


Get The Barack Obama Holiday Inaugural Gift Package By R2C2H2 Tha Artivist!!!

No comments: