by Dr Boyce Watkins
But I’ll confess that their mass emails are written so well, you would almost think they are writing directly to you. Also, given that I’ve corresponded personally with former NAACP President Ben Jealous on multiple occassions, I couldn’t be entirely sure they were reaching out to me.
But that is neither here nor there. I decided to go ahead and share this correspondence with others so they can make their own decision. Here is a confessional thought that just crossed my mind: When I think about the way Donald Sterling was able to purchase the good graces of LA Chapter NAACP President Leon Jenkins, I am reminded of many other situations I’ve confronted that seemed to point toward corruption in both the local and national chapters of the NAACP. Some examples might include the following:
1) When the NAACP has stood in lockstep support of the Obama Administration’s initiatives on gay rights and immigration without asking their members if they are in agreement. Many black preachers and their constituents have views on gay rights that are not always consistent with liberal Democrats. It’s always odd to me when an organization agrees to something that most of it’s members do not support.
2) Times when people have told me that they were trying to get help with a civil rights issue, but the local NAACP chapter was so closely aligned with the city’s businessmen and politicians that they were afraid to help. Often, the president of the local NAACP spends a great deal of time rubbing elbows with white corporate and community leaders. This can often lead to very serious conflicts of interest when local residents have been victims of discrimination at the hands of these very same powerful entities. If you consider a small town like, say, Kennett, Missouri (where 24-year old college student Heather Ellis was on her way to prison for cutting line at a Walmart), the corruption can be absolutely gut-wrenching.
Perhaps the NAACP should ensure that there are adequate checks and balances so that their local chapters aren’t used as “get rich quick” schemes for less-than-ethical leaders who see the power of the NAACP brand as an opportunity to strong arm local busineses into giving them consistent payoffs. But that’s just a thought.
The letter from the NAACP president is below. Tell me what you think:
The bigoted comments of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling that came to light last week were deeply hurtful. That the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP had been planning to give an award to a man with a history of hateful remarks is simply inexcusable.
Last night, I accepted Leon Jenkins’ resignation from his position as President of the Los Angeles branch. This was the first of many steps we as an organization are taking to address this issue. The NAACP remains actively engaged in a review of the Los Angeles branch. We will determine the shortcomings that enabled Donald Sterling to receive or be considered for any awards. We will prevent this from happening again.
We recognize the need for all our units to have the resources to serve their communities, but we must not allow that need to compromise our founding principles. We must determine what Donald Sterling donated to the NAACP Los Angeles branch—in order for it to be returned.
Boyce, I know you may be angry, frustrated, and confused. We will be making changes, and I hope our commitment to addressing this issue helps us move forward, so we can remain focused on the critical issues facing so many of our communities.
Millions still face unprecedented attacks on their rights to vote. Our families too often feel the terror of gun violence. The number of children with access to a quality education is shrinking, while economic inequality and instances of racial profiling are on the rise.
The success of our mission requires vigilance on many important issues at once, even as we strive to improve our organization at every level.
I look forward to working with you on both fronts this year and beyond.
Lorraine C. Miller Interim President and CEO NAACP
P.S. We commend the NBA for banning Donald Sterling for life, and commencing the process for a forced sale of his team. Write a message of thanks to Commissioner Silver, and we’ll deliver your note when we meet to discuss the issue of racism in professional sports.