The NAACP has become a running joke. The famed institution long known for its quest for justice has become a running comic book sideshow. The tents are up and the circus is full of clowns and laughable jokers in the midst.
The fight for equality can now be bought. Breaking down the barriers of racial injustice can be made a little bit easier with some hard cash in your hands. No need to walk down the road of freedom land without the financial assistance from your sugar daddy.
That’s the impression I got from this whole NAACP-Donald Sterling flap. That’s unfortunate. It is also extremely disappointing to accept. But it is the reality of what has become the NAACP. The Sterling fiasco is just the latest of questionable moves the NAACP has pulled in recent memory.
The NAACP Image Awards has caused many among the local black press to form a mutinous rebellion against the organization because they have been denied access to cover or attend the most prestigious awards show for African Americans and people of color in favor of mainstream media representation. This is just one of many notable blunders the NAACP has overlooked while it continues to step out of relevancy.
Now comes the matter of the NAACP propping up to hand Sterling a second lifetime achievement award. Buffoonery has no shame. All we need now is some hand-clapping and feet-tapping to go along with the minstrel music being played.
This is more than an embarrassment for the NAACP. This episode is going to further tarnish what remains of the pride and reputation of the NAACP, an organization which has paved the way for many victories for people of color to be treated as equal citizens in this country. There are a lot of people who deem the NAACP irrelevant in this day and age.
And now those same individuals will try to take the bull by the horn and rail that the civil rights organization is out of touch. I beg to differ. However, it’s going to take some serious work to undo the damage the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP caused.
The resignation of Leon Jenkins, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP, won’t stop the public relations bleeding the organization is experiencing right now. And its pretty bad.
But it is a start. Thanks to some bumbling moves by Jenkins to honor Donald Sterling-not once, but twice-have left the NAACP with a lot more than egg on its face. There are some things in life that can’t be bought or negotiated. Dignity and self-respect are at least two examples.
The perseverance of integrity is another. The NAACP lost a lot of all three when it was discovered by the media and the public that Jenkins and the Los Angeles branch were set to wine and dine with a man who didn’t want his alleged girlfriend to hang out publicly with African Americans and other minorities via audio recording that was made available to TMZ.
The Sterling soundbite, however, speaks to a much bigger issue than a conversation he had with his alleged mistress. Sterling has history. And not the kind of history the NAACP or any other civil rights group should ignore. It is public knowledge of the alleged housing discrimination lawsuits filed against Sterling, which he settled out of court.
It is also public knowledge that Sterling has sponsored and put on free basketball clinics in urban communities and has donated money to many charitable causes.
Perhaps this is what Jenkins and the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP thought when they decided to honor Sterling. Maybe they thought that his recent societal good far outweighed the sins of his distant past. Maybe the branch needed the money Sterling put up. Where I have a problem with this is that Sterling is not the only philanthropist in Los Angeles doing great things in reaching back to communities of color, whether it is through service or monetary donations.
I also take issue with the fact that no one from the NAACP, which rescinded the award to Sterling, came out and explained why they chose to honor the banned Los Angeles Clippers owner in the first place.
Despite this large misstep, the NAACP is still making a difference in people’s lives, whether its fighting for citizen’s right to vote, creating awareness about employment opportunities or offering assistance for those coming out of the judicial system. The NAACP is still needed. It just can’t afford to have another Donald Sterling moment.