Welcome To The 21st Century, Y'all.
La Shawn writes about the NAACP with passion and conviction, nicknaming it The Dinosaur. I think she's dead right. Even the name is an anachronism. Colored People? That was progressive for the Aughts, when Du Bois and his backers organized in the first place, but that term has been played out, the fact that my grandmother still asks if there are "any colored" on a game show before she'll let me change the channel, notwithstanding. More problematic than the name is the fact that the organization appears to be stuck in the "protest until y'all give it up" paradigm. That went out with Nehru jackets. At this point, the main impediment to the advancement of colored people is colored people themselves. The NAACP needs to hop in this time machine right quick. On the left-hand side panel at Booker Rising, towards the bottom of the page, there is a list of statistics about Blacks in America. Take a look at it. Not as bad as you thought, is it? Certainly not indicative of a struggle. Don't get me wrong, I'll be one of the last ones to say that everything's all good for Black people in America, but I think it's about time to accept the fact that for however bad it may be (if it can honestly be called bad), it's not 1964. Should the NAACP continue to act as a sentry, watching for discriminatory practices and policies wherever they may be? I don't see why not. However, at this point, that shouldn't be the main thrust of their effort. One of the things that has always disturbed me about political/ideological discourse in this country is that it's so polarized. So when it comes to W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, it's like we're supposed to choose sides or something. There are no sides. They were both working for the same thing. I think I said in somebody's comments one time, Washington and DuBois were the legs that we have to stand on. I would argue that while Booker T's emphasis on work and economic growth in the Black community was important, Du Bois's legal and social strategy was necessary in the early part of the 20th century. There are several examples of thriving Black communities that were obliterated by racist mobs, most notably (for me because you know I hafta work a musical angle in here somehow) Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK. That's where the GAP Band got its name from, the three streets that comprised that area, Greenwood, Archer, and Pine. (now you know.) Economic progress without a the legal/political means to maintain it is of limited use. However, like Biggie said, "Things done changed." Nowadays, Black businesses are in more danger of being under-patronized than burned down. I'll grant that there may be some racially motivated arson and/or vandalism that goes on, but certainly not on the scale that it used to be. When a Black fighter beats a white fighter, we don't have to worry about the reprecussions that followed Jack Johnson's exorcisistic whipping of Jim Jeffries. (He beat the devil out of him.) We hardly even bat an eye any more. (But on the real, can somebody tell me why President Reagan had a phone in Gerry Cooney's dressing room to congratulate him, but not in Larry Holmes' room? Stuff like that resonates with me. Seriously.) At this point, we're past needing legal protection. Now it's time for Black America to concentrate on getting busy with the elbow grease. People can complain about classism all they want, but it seems to me that the only thing "classism" really means is that we shouldn't expect poor people to do anything other than what they're doing. Bill Cosby and his comments over the last several weeks have been keeping the word buzzing in the air, but it's even more pervasive than that. A couple months ago, when the sisters at Spelman kept Nelly from holding a fundraiser on their campus following the release of his video, Tip Drill, they were critiqued as being classist. Come on, now. It's classist to say it's demeaning to Black women to have a video with a guy swiping a credit card through her nether regions? Usually people who level that charge want to blame the interlocking systems of oppression, patriarchy, capitalism, and racism. Okay, whatever. I'll let all the rhetoric slide for a minute. My question is, what does that mean in terms of action? For all the people who claim that Bill Cosby is being classist in critiquing the way some young people speak, what do they suggest? It doesn't matter how much affirmative action is out there, if a person can't speak with a modicum of intelligence, he ain't got a chance, do he? And I say this knowing good and well that I come from a linguist's perspective, with all communication being valid as long as the idea that's being expressed by the sender is being understood by the receiver. That's cool in a theoretical discussion, but when it comes down to getting a j-o-b, the linguist's perspective means nothing. It's not oppressing anybody to say, "You need to step up your vocabulary." Didn't Pimp C say it in Big Pimpin'? ("Go get a book you illiterate son of a bitch and step up your vocab.") Classist? Yeah, if by that you mean people need to study something besides the idiot box (I will never get off that 70 hours a week thing.) So then, for the NAACP, the name is symptomatic of their larger problem. They need to adapt to the times. How bout instead of concentrating their focus on the Black community's struggle with forces from the outside, they put more effort into the problems that the Black community itself can fix? Not saying that that's not being done now, or that even it's not an integral part of what they're doing, but all I'm hearing from Julian Bond is complaining about President Bush. After Bill Cosby's initial comments, Kweisi Mfume said something like, "We've been saying that all along." To whom? And when? If that's supposed to be our leading organization, then they need to get out and lead and stop talking about who's not doing what for us and why it's okay for those of us who ain't doin nothin to keep doin' nothin. I really hope they get their agenda together in Philly this week, but after Thursday, they need to stop the yappin and make it happen.