Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Continued Decline of the NAACP

During Black History month, it's unfortunate to note the continued decline of the NAACP. The civil rights organization that did so much to battle injustice and inequality in this country now wastes much of its time on petty squabbles and perceived slights, conveniently recast as racism.

The latest example of this comes from Colorado Springs, where Rosemary Harris, President of the local NAACP Chapter, is upset. She sees something sinister in a decision by managers at the Peterson AFB Commissary, which is located in her city. The commissary recently removed a picture of Barack Obama from a sign announcing that the facility will be closed on President's Day.

"It bodes poorly for the progress that we hoped we would see in this country; we might have taken one step forward but we see many steps being taken backwards," she told the Colorado Springs Gazette on Friday. She believes the decision to remove Obama's picture was racist, and at least one commissary worker agrees.

The employee, an unidentified cashier, claims that past presidents, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have appeared on the sign announcing the holiday closure. She also reports that a military retiree told her that "they're not going to have no black man on the window where he shops."

But the Defense Commissary Agency (DECA), which operates the grocery stores found on U.S. military installations around the world, provides a much different version of the kerfuffle. For starters, they say that no photographs of past presidents have appeared on the sign. Additionally, the agency said that four customers at Peterson complained about the accuracy of the sign, noting that Presidents Day is intended to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, not other presidents. Associating other commanders-in-chief with the holiday is historically incorrect, so DECA decided to remove Mr. Obama's picture.

However, Ms. Harris is unimpressed. "To me it doesn't matter if its racism or politics," she told the Gazette. "It's probably some of both."

Actually, it's neither, but that doesn't grab newspaper headlines, or provide fodder for the next membership or fund-raising drive. So the Colorado Springs NAACP will (apparently) keep fighting the good fight against politically correct--but historically erroneous--signs at a local Air Force Commissary.

Forty-six years ago, local NAACP leaders were battling Jim Crow and the most virulent forms of racism. Some, like Medgar Evers, gave their lives for the struggle. Five decades later, Ms. Harris is concerned that Mr. Obama's picture doesn't appear on a closing sign for a holiday honoring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It's a reminder of how far we've come as a nation--and the long, sad decline of a pioneering civil rights organization.

Two years ago, African-American writer and attorney Debra J. Dickerson wondered aloud if the NAACP had "outlived its usefulness." Judging by the pointless crusade in Colorado Springs, it's hard to disagree.


Ed Rasimus said...

While Presidents Day was definitely established as a consolidation of the two federal holidays for Washington and Lincoln's birthday in order to free up a calendar slot for MLK Day, I'd be hard pressed to support the argument that is not a celebration of ALL of our Presidents. It matters little, since the current generation of Americans knows little about any of our patriotic celebrations such as Independence Day, Memorial Day or Veterans Day. They are simply holidays without special meaning.

The umbrage over the Messiah's photo, however, seems excessive--particularly for Colorado Springs where I lived twenty years of my retired life.

All military installations display a picture of the current commander-in-chief, so I'm sure there are plenty of Obama pictures around to assuage the pain.

A more appropriate sign for the current population would probably be just a generic "Closed Monday". They could use it whenever the need it.

Unknown said...

Ed--I'd also be willing to bet that the Peterson Commissary, like those in my area, have displays inside for Black History Month, complete with pictures of President Obama. Naturally, the local NAACP chapter president ignores those facts.

jamminedward said...

Obama is not black. He is of mixed African and Jewish ancestry. Never let him or his supporters forget that. True enough the NAACP, if it was ever really useful, has far outlived its usefulness. It is now and has been for a long time a grossly racist, ineffectual caricature of what it claims to be. It's new purpose should be as the No. 1 example of hypocrisy in Webster's.