President Bush and the NAACP
This past week, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held their 95th Annual Convention in Philadelphia. This yearly gathering of the leaders of state and local chapters has historically afforded the NAACP a high media profile.
This year's convention was no different as most major media outlets were willing to run the leads based on what happened during the keynote. The one difference might be in the intensity of the message.
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond used his keynote speech to blast the Bush Administration for their policies regarding race and minorities. This should come as no surprise, as Chairman Bond has been consistently critical of the President since the last election.
The big difference this year is that Mr. Bond (not shaken or stirred) also went after the entire Republican Party. In his remarks he suggested that Republicans see no difference between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. His belief is that we ALL want to turn back the clock on racial progress as a function of our political affiliation.
Mr. Bond, in an intemperate and ill conceived tirade, threw away any good will that may have existed between the civil rights group and moderate Republicans. In his world, if you're not a Democrat, you simply are unable to comprehend the struggle of minorities.
I'm sure that the Democratic Party, and the Kerry/Edwards ticket by extension, is thrilled to hear Bond describe the Bush Administration and any member of the GOP as unable to give proper consideration to the plight of the minority community.
Unfortunately, only a fool would believe that premise. A fool, or someone so blinded by their own political ideology that they have long ago surrendered any legitimacy in the larger political dialogue.
Julian Bond, as NAACP chairman, has accomplished something that hate groups like the KKK and Aryan Nation have failed to do since desegregation. He has marginalized the legitimate voice of the NAACP by making it a tool of the Democratic Party.
In any and all future statements, balanced Americans will view the fiery political rhetoric as nothing more than a scripted, practiced message of hope for Democrats across the country. Moderate Republicans view this type of stunt as moving us farther from being able to achieve a political solution.
As a national opinion leader, Julian Bond has a special responsibility to set a tone and feel for the civil rights movement. He has done that with his keynote. He has established that the NAACP can finally, fully, join the labor movement as a consistent and dependable voice for the Democratic Party.
A side note is that Kwiesi Mfume was hoping that the President would come and address this convention. All indications are that the President did not accept the invitation, based in large part on the reasons I described above.
My perspective is that the President SHOULD have spoken to the NAACP. If I were President, I would want to seize the opportunity to communicate these thoughts to the convention-goers and the larger national audience through the media.
I would want to defend my personal belief that all men are created equal, that Dr. King's vision, so eloquently defined on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, is still within our collective reach, though much needs to be done.
I would want to tell everyone listening (some wouldn't) that America will always be defined by the limitless vision of our people; the inspirational stories of our forefathers, including those who came here in chains; and a spirit of faith and hope that can overcome any obstacle.
As a member of a political party, I am unwilling to make sweeping generalizations of anyone, especially a member of a political party holding a different view than mine.
It seems to me to be irresponsible, shortsighted, and ignorant to do otherwise.