One of the outcomes of last week’s NAACP 90th Annual Meeting was a
call to mau-mau network executives for not having enough blacks in
leading roles in next fall’s television shows. Another was Kweisi
Mfume’s call to sue gun manufacturers.

The NAACP director said, “The time has come for us to look at the
proliferation of handguns.” Mfume, like the mayors of Philadelphia, New
Orleans and Chicago, sees gun manufacturers as responsible for the
murder and mayhem in black neighborhoods.

At the turn of the century, Booker T. Washington warned against the
agenda of “problem profiteers,” proclaiming, “There is a class of
colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs
and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned
that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have
grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly
because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these
people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not
want to lose their jobs.” Booker T. Washington’s warnings apply aptly to
people like Jesse Jackson and Mfume.

Robert Woodson, director of the Washington-based National Center for
Neighborhood Enterprises, points to the increasing gap between the
concerns of the civil-rights establishment and those of ordinary black
citizens for whom they purport to speak in his recent book, “The
Triumphs of Joseph.”

In one survey, 83 percent of blacks said they were in favor of school
choice. Yet in a floor vote at the 1993 NAACP convention, delegates
passed a resolution opposing school choice. In a Washington Post survey,
pollsters asked whether minorities should receive preferential treatment
to make up for past discrimination — 77 percent of black leaders said
yes, while 77 percent of the black public said no. Black leaders support
forced school busing, while a majority of blacks disapprove. Only 8
percent of blacks see racial integration as an issue of importance. Yet
the civil-rights establishment continues to pursue their ’60s agenda of
mandated integration and recompense for past discrimination.

Jackson and Mfume’s push to have more blacks in starring roles on
television shows is exactly what Bill Raspberry, Washington Post
columnist, meant when he wrote, “The inner-city poor furnish the
statistical base for the proposals, but the benefits go primarily to the
already well-off.” More blacks on television doesn’t do a thing for the
major problems of the inner-city blacks, such as poor education, crime
and female-headed households.

Invoking the names of poor blacks in order to benefit well-off blacks
isn’t new. In 1990, Jackson and other civil-rights leaders accused Nike
Corporation of exploiting inner-city black youngsters. Among their
demands were: more blacks in top management positions, more Nike
advertising in black-owned media outlets and more blacks on Nike’s board
of trustees. This tactic of using poor blacks to provide benefits for
their better-off brethren is known in retailing as “bait and switch.”

Since private and Catholic schools do a far better job of educating
blacks, the NAACP could have called for school choice, but that would
have offended their members who are public school teachers. They could
have called on the Clinton administration to speak out against slavery
in Ghana — as featured in a Feb. 7, 1997, New York Times story — and
slavery in the Sudan and Mauritania, where an estimated 30,000 blacks
are held in bondage, but that might offend Jackson’s Muslim backers.

If there’s a bright side to the NAACP, it’s that ordinary blacks
don’t give the organization much attention and financial support. Most
of the organization’s financing comes from white liberals, mau-maued
corporations and foundations.

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