January 20, 2011 by Ben Crystal
Ask a randomly-selected group to name an American civil rights organization, and it’s a fair bet that seven out of 10 will respond: “The NAACP.” The other three are likely busily thumbing through their copies of “Moody Loners’ Monthly.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has a rich history marked by enormous strides forward in the effort to give each taxpaying citizen of this great nation equal access to the embittered cynicism endemic to being a taxpaying citizen of this great nation.
Where once blacks were unable to vote, the NAACP helped secure their opportunity to choose from the same nest of back-slapping jacklegs that have the rest of us scratching our heads. Where once blacks were consigned to lives in decaying urban cesspools like Detroit and Washington, D.C., the NAACP has been steadfast in championing meaningful renewa… er… well… they’re against that poverty stuff.
Thusly, during the national holiday celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the NAACP should presumably take center stage in reminding us of King’s message of unity, love and peace.
Conversely, they could take advantage of their starring role in the soap opera of American race relations to press forward with a message of hatred, divisiveness and conflict.
Monday, the NAACP chose curtain No. 2 — again. At a rally at the South Carolina State Capitol, the NAACP celebrated King’s legacy by angrily protesting the display of a “Confederate” flag on the Capitol grounds as a part of a Civil War memorial. I don’t have a dog in the flag fight; I’m an interloping Yankee. While I understand the historical aspects of the Confederate flag, it has always seemed deliberately anachronistic to me, like waving a Union Jack on the 4th of July. Nonetheless, South Carolinians have repeatedly said they want to keep it around.
On King’s day, why bother singing the same tune you’ve been howling at Palmetto Staters for years? Institutional racism is dead in South Carolina, just ask James Clyburn; currently the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. For that matter, take a look at the S.C. 2008 Democrat primary, when Barack Obama did everything but park his campaign bus on putty-faced Hillary Clinton’s Presidential ambitions.
A friend recently invoked the words of a noteworthy American:
“We ought not to look back, unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dear bought experience.”
It’s an uncommonly erudite caution against lingering on past offenses and failures without learning from them. The speaker was an uncommonly erudite man: George Washington — our American Cincinattus, and symbol of offense to the NAACP.
You read that right. While 1,200 members of the nation’s most august civil rights organization crowded the steps of the South Carolina State Capitol on Monday, a statue of ol’ George was shrouded by a wooden enclosure, reportedly because the NAACP didn’t want to “offend anyone.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than some over bred descendant of King George III being offended by a bronze likeness of one of the most important architects of human freedom in history, but it’s an educated guess that race was a factor. Even if the purpose of the shroud was to make NAACP president Ben Jealous look less doughy and more telegenic, I have a hard time imagining the NAACP covering up a bronze relief of George Washington Carver.
But there it was. The same group which claims the mantle of harmonious progress handed down by King, rallying against a symbol of a movement which no longer exists, deliberately obscuring the image of a man who would be horrified by the whole dog and pony show.
Time was, the NAACP stood for the ideals for which both Washington and King lived — and in King’s case — died. Now, they whine about the Governor of Maine’s travel schedule. They bellow on behalf of cop killers. And they’re so consumed with their own place in the present that they have lost any meaningful sense of either the past or the future.
King warned: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” Behind the NAACP’s enclosure, George Washington nods in assent.