This is not Walter White's NAACP
By Charles Michael Byrd

Beyond a point, criticizing the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) seems downright unsportsmanlike, akin to shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel with a .357 Magnum. This decades-old organization, desperately in search of an identity with which to confidently confront and to enter the new millennium -- with which to justify its continued existence at a time when Americans are beginning to move away from monoracial identity politics -- so often offers itself as such a tantalizing target, though, that it's hard to resist.

Whether it's the group's exalting boxing promoter and "great American" Don King at last summer's national convention in Pittsburgh, or whether it's their Washington Bureau's accusation that those citing increases in interracial marriage rates were guilty of "demagoguery" during the recent Census 2000 debate (See -- NAACP PROGRAMS-Washington Bureau, News and Action Alert: Census 2000), the NAACP offers itself as fair game for unceasing ridicule.

In his 07-18-97 Op-Ed Page Essay, "A Pitiful Giant: What happened to the NAACP?" New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote:

This year's convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was supposed to have been all about children, which was not a bad idea because huge numbers of black children are hurting in ways that would break a normal person's heart. But the interests of children were betrayed right at the start when the thuggish boxing promoter Don King was honored, embraced and gushed over by Kweisi Mfume, the man who was hired to clean up the act of the once-illustrious civil rights organization.

Don King. How's that for a role model? Maybe it'll be Mike Tyson next year.

In presenting Mr. King with the association's President's Award, Mr. Mfume compared him to Jackie Robinson and complained about Federal prosecutors who have targeted the promoter in an insurance fraud case. Mr. Mfume did not go into Mr. King's long history of unscrupulous business practices, or the time he spent in prison for pistol-whipping and kicking a man to death.

Mr. King, in accepting the award, smilingly and enthusiastically asserted that the United States is a great country. And he offered what he felt were some helpful comments about the Constitution.

We overvalue the issue of interracial marriage rates increasing when we use it as both the sole rationale for and defense of multiraciality, and a number of well-meaning academicians and multiracial activists -- no demagogues by any stretch of anyone's mean-spirited and dim-witted imagination -- may have overused it during the Census 2000/multiracial category debate. While the 1967 United States Supreme Court ruling striking down this country's remaining anti-miscegenation laws -- Loving vs. Virginia -- was significant, it certainly does not carry the historical weight or import of, say, the Emancipation Proclamation. I've referenced Loving vs. Virginia myself, but doing so excessively gives the false impression, especially to those void of intellect, that the 1967 ruling freed whites and blacks to both marry and copulate for the first time in this country's history, and that the first blended or mixed-race American was born sometime in 1968.

A mixed-race university professor who has written a couple of books on this theme once informed me that she was "very happy to have the situation of mixed race framed in terms that are not directly tied to fractured childhoods, for intellectual purposes." To give the issue of mixedness as positive and "politically correct" a revisionist spin as possible, to make us more unobjectionable to monoracialists of all hues and political persuasions, to not fall into the Tragic Mulatto Syndrome, should we act as if we didn't exist before 1968? Should we dare not mention that many of us were born illegitimately, that one or both of our parents abandoned some of us at birth, or that, on a more positive note, one of us ascended to the rank of NAACP Executive Director?

Walter White (photo left, dated 1942, from the Library of Congress) was the NAACP's longest serving Executive Director in the group's eighty-nine year history, holding that post from 1931 until his death in 1955.

As anyone who has ever gazed upon his features will unequivocally attest, Mr. White's physical appearance more closely approximated his surname than his societally imposed "racial" identity. Walter White's mixedness and the organization's founders in 1909 having been an admixture of both black and white intellectuals are two particulars about which the present-day black cultural nationalist leadership apparently doesn't want anyone to remind it.

The NAACP would do well to cease obsessing with and tripping over the protection of "black" rights or with improving and securing educational and employment opportunities solely for people "of color." All humans have color, and racism is no longer exclusively the prerogative of white males. Those are incontrovertible facts, not demagoguery.

Also See...

Some of History's More Interesting Examples of Mixed Racial Heritage
One of the early roots of the film "Secret Daughter" was FRONTLINE's research into the growing debate over racial classification and the social phenomenon commonly known as "passing." Mario deValdes y Cocom, an historian of the African diaspora, researched some of history's more interesting examples of mixed racial heritage.

The Tragedy of the Mulatto
The following article by Ray Stannard Baker appeared in "The American Magazine" vol. 65 (April 1908). Illustrated with portraits.


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