From the Editor

Is the NAACP Proud of Kweisi Mfume?

By Charles Michael Byrd

(Photo by Lynn Goldsmith)

"The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred million to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face?"

--Henry David Thoreau

Arizona Senator John McCain wants to run for President in 2000, but he has detractors even within his own party. They claim that because McCain is not a right-wing ideologue, he has a more all-around appeal that would help him in a general election but which would make it more difficult for him to win over die-hard GOP primary voters. To such concerns, McCain told the New York Times on April 3, he had a ready answer to early primary voters:

"I'd say, 'I know you're happy with your life and the present Administration, but are you proud?' The second thing I would say is, 'I cannot promise you that you and I will agree on every issue. But I can promise you that I'll act on principle."
It doesn't take a Walter Reed brain surgeon busted down to Census number-cruncher to glean the damage that the incumbent has inflicted upon the office of the Presidency, tarnish that will take, perhaps, decades to clear away notwithstanding the man's seeming ability to dodge every legal bullet. As one who twice voted for Bill Clinton, I cannot honestly say that I am proud the leader of the free world suffers the pathological troika of prevarication, philandering and providing sensitive satellite and missile technology to the Communist Chinese in exchange for campaign donations.

What does all this have to do with the NAACP and Kweisi Mfume? I thought you'd never ask.

Now, far be it for me, the unassuming, mild-mannered publisher of a humble Internet newsjournal -- with a global readership -- to offer advice to the NAACP's Board of Directors. (Okay, maybe I've done it once or twice before, but who's counting?) With the Julian Bond-era now in its fifth month, though, the big question on the minds of many is why Kweisi Mfume is still hanging around. Interestingly, we may be witnessing a colored nuance of Clinton's primary saving grace: "The economy's hummin', babe, so why make a change?!" Under the leadership of former chairwoman Myrlie Evers-Williams and current president Mfume, the NAACP has turned a $4.8 million debt in 1994 to a current $2 million surplus.

That notwithstanding, one role of any corporate board is to monitor the chief executive, dispassionately assessing his or her performance and that of the corporation. Against that backdrop, let's look at CEO Mfume's tenure and see if his performance warrants his remaining in office. Who knows? Maybe we can find a few particulars that merit the current board's immediate attention.

Remarks made on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" (August 19, 1996)
Kweisi Mfume appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" six months after joining the NAACP. Among other things, he spoke of the failure of both political parties to deal with the issue of "race" in an "open and deliberate manner," instead of every four years where it tends to be expedient. Contrast those sentiments with the behind-closed-doors move to squash the proposed multiracial category. After Mr. Mfume's designated pointman on this issue -- the smooth-talking, smoooooth operator and former Washington Bureau Director, Harold A. McDougall -- seduced the leadership of two organizations into playing ball on the NAACP's terms, the Census 2000 initiative was effectively killed.

Host Ray Suarez mentioned that Mr. Mfume came to the NAACP at a point in history when the only times the organization had made headlines at all within the previous five years or so was when scandals rocked it.

Scandals notwithstanding, Mr. Mfume spoke of his vision of the NAACP needing to be a "bridge over troubled waters." (Sorry but no points for originality there.) He railed against the U.S. as a nation divided against itself due to racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and bigotry -- evidenced, he said, within both "black" and "white" communities. He bemoaned our not living out the true meaning of our creator, our legacy, but struggling day to day to deal with divisions and polarizations that continue to crop up. Again, contrast those sentiments with the NAACP's attempt to muzzle the entire mixed-race debate, one which will ultimately lead America away from the insanity of "racial" classifications and "race"-based ideology.

Mr. Suarez offered that, as a reporter, he found the NAACP was simply not relevant to the lives of young "black" men and women he had interviewed in the inner cities.

Mr. Mfume countered that the NAACP didn't get to this "aura of irrelevancy" overnight. Some of it probably occurred over a period because "there was not a sense of willingness to embrace generational change. You cannot be in a society or in a world -- or in life for that matter -- where there's constant change and remain stagnant because then you do have no sense of relevancy. But you get out of it by looking at what you did to get in..." For a third time, contrast those sentiments with the NAACP's sheer fright at the thought of a multiracial category, representing the ever growing population of mixed-race or blended Americans, siphoning off "black" Census numbers.

Ray Suarez brought out that one change over the years was the public's notion of whom the NAACP actually embraced. He stated that at its founding the NAACP was a multiracial organization committed to social justice, and that during some of the more climactic battles of the postwar era the public still understood it to be a multiracial coalition. He said he doubted that many people in the street today would still think it is. He wondered if Kweisi Mfume saw that as a problem or whether times have changed so much that the NAACP simply cannot attract many members outside "black" America.

Mr. Mfume answered that the organization is predominantly "black" but still with a significant number of "white" and Jewish members "who tend not to be as active but who are still, nonetheless, lifetime members." Perhaps the NAACP's "white" and Jewish members simply refuse to actively involve themselves in an organization that has firmly embraced black nationalist tenets. At any rate, keep all the above in mind as we consider the following phone call Mr. Suarez took from David in Detroit who wanted to know how he could help:

David in Detroit: Uh, good evening, good afternoon, Mr. Mfume, I didn't expect to get through to you, and when I called my purpose was to ask you what your ideas might be as to how you would involve people like me, white, older generation. And I just have a quick comment with regard to the schools. The basic problem, I think, is the lack of parental and community involvement in the schools, particularly it's not just particular to Detroit, but I think it's all over. So, the first suggestion regarding that is, from me to you, involvement...

Ray Suarez: Well do you have any work for David in Detroit to do with your Detroit chapter, Mr. Mfume?

Kweisi Mfume: Well, we have tried to put in place, in Detroit, a back to school -- stay in school program. I hope to be able to announce at the beginning of the year an afterschool program because I'm concerned about the hours from 3 until 5 p.m. -- after a kid gets out of school, before a parent or someone gets home. Because we lose people in that void and in that gap. But I agree with him. The lack of parental involvement is major, and somewhere along the line in the equation we have to admit that that's one of the factors that we have got to overcome.

When I go to PTA meetings, when I visit schools, the lack of input is frightening. And I'm talking about the lack of input from parents and from others. Now parents are working more, so in all fairness to them, they can't be there all the time. But what we can do, if we're very serious about trying to turn this problem around, is to get back to this notion of an extended family so that we care about other children even though we may not be their biological parents. And that we find ways to involve ourselves in their lives.

Ray Suarez: David in Detroit, we didn't get any specific advice on how to proceed. Well, the first thing I guess he should do is, what, join the local chapter there, Mr. Mfume?

Kweisi Mfume: Well, he doesn't have to do that. I mean the NAACP may not be where everybody wants to go, and again I've said to people, watch us and measure us, then decide whether you want to be part of us. But what I hear from him is genuine concern and a clear understanding of where part of the problem is, and I would only suggest that he and others who understand that and who believe, continue to articulate it because it becomes left out of the mix, if you will, and we always assume that we can a-) throw more money into education or b-) find a way for a miracle to take place. Miracles will happen in schools when we get into those schools and we try to work with young people. I agree we need more materials, and we need more things to work with, but we also have to leverage what we have by getting involved. I believe strongly in that. I talk about this sort of thing because I've lived it. This is not something that's hodgepodge for me. I've been through it, and I know that reaching out for young people and finding a way to involve yourself in their lives means so much more than some of the rhetoric that I hear around the country from people who say, "Ah, kids aren't this or they can't this, or the greatest problem is that." The greatest need is involvement, and I agree with him, and I think that parental involvement is absolutely the best, but second to that, involvement by the outside or extended community that are not biologically connected is important also.

God Almighty! David in Detroit had to listen to an earful yet still not get an answer regarding how he could help the NAACP in Motown. The fact is, Kweisi Mfume doesn't want any "white" help in Detroit or elsewhere, though earlier he decried "white" and Jewish members as not being sufficiently active. Mr. Mfume was giving the nation a clear and unmistakable signal that when it comes to educating "black" children (not to mention participation in the NAACP in general), no non-"blacks" need apply.

Add that to your recollection of the NAACP's promoting a return to segregated "blacks" only public schools that Interracial Voice told you about last year. What should all of this tell any thinking person?

Remarks made on ABC's "This Week" (April 27, 1997)
During last year's Census 2000 debate, those of us who supported a multiracial category received no more compelling evidence of how disdainful the "civil rights" community viewed this effort -- and us ultimately -- than when Mr. Mfume appeared on ABC's This Week program on April 27. Tiger Woods was all the rage, and a congressman from Wisconsin had presented legislation in the House of Representatives that would, if passed, compel the Census Bureau to incorporate a multiracial category for 2000. The representative, Thomas Petri, was a guest of Sam, Cokie and George that Sunday morning along with Mr. Mfume. It is not necessary to present the entire transcript of that This Week segment to you in this space, but one comment by Mr. Mfume sums up the totality of his remarks and is reflective of his inability to properly process this issue. Referring to H.R. 830, Mr. Petri's bill, and the emergence of Tiger Woods as media darling, Mr. Mfume said:

I would urge people of goodwill across this country to engage in the debate and a dialogue and a discussion on this, and not just to move willy-nilly for some feel-good purpose because we have now someone who of great stature has brought this issue forward, but to recognize what long-term consequences might be for all of us.

I viewed the original program, but a few thoughts came to mind after reading the ABC NEWS transcript.

  • Beware of any slick politico who wants to "debate" your right to self-identify, either socially or politically, as you see fit. How arrogant and ludicrous!

  • Whenever "black" politicians warn about the "long-term consequences" of a mixed-race identifier, they are saying that they fear a diminishment of their accrued power -- political muscle predicated on racist one-drop-of-blood dogma.

  • With all due respect to Tiger Woods, he did not initiate what became known as the "multiracial movement." Tiger certainly gave the cause much needed impetus, but the discussion was ongoing when he emerged on the scene.

  • Pardon my French, but who the hell is Kweisi Mfume to denigrate anyone's self-identification as merely being for a feel-good purpose? From where does he derive the moral authority to do so? We're talking about a fella who, while known as Frizzell Gray, sired five sons by three different mothers while running wild through the mean streets of Baltimore. Could we not argue that his reverting to an afrocentric moniker ("Kweisi Mfume" is Swahili for "conquering sons of kings") was an attempt to allow himself and others to "feel-good" about or possibly forget his uncontrollable juvenile libido? Of course, but why should we? The man can call himself Frizzell, Kweisi or "a lost soul pursuing Nirvana," but Mr. Mfume -- of all people -- should think twice or even three times before invalidating the choice of identity of potentially millions of Americans.
For the record, Rep. Petri did state that, regarding Mr. Mfume's misleading and insincere argument about not being able to track past discrimination against mixed-race people because there has never been a mixed-race category:

But if that is a concern, I think on the long form it might make sense to, if someone does check multiracial, then to ask them what are the races that make up that composition, and that would enable you to be sure that you were protecting people's rights.

In other words, Mr. Petri affirmed that Congress could have easily amended his bill to include the check-all-that-apply laundry list under a stand-alone "multiracial" header.

Kweisi Mfume's argument was misleading because the primary motivation of unfeigned category supporters was and still is self-identification plus a desire to both help and see America begin moving away from its obsession with mutually exclusive "racial" and "ethnic" categories -- not tracking past discrimination. He was insincere in that he cares nothing about discrimination against blended or mixed-race folk since he and other "civil rights" leaders consider "multiracial" but a synonym for a renegade or lighter variety of "black." We found proof of this last November on the NAACP's own website on its Washington Bureau's News and Action Alert: Census 2000 page:

Present thinking is to count each person once for capitation purposes, and to count them more than once for enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. (So Tiger Woods counts as only one person for the total enumeration, but census takers will count him as a black, an Asian, and a native American for purposes of keeping track of the different kinds of discrimination he may face.) Does it kind of make your head hurt? Well, this last outcome might actually result in a larger count of black people than in 1990. Not bad.

My friends, the real issue here is simple: "civil rights" leaders and their smarmy socialist sycophants within the mixed-race community are still sermonizing from a 1960's pulpit, preaching of the need to monitor "racial" discrimination, real or imagined, till Kingdom Come. Unfortunately, many of them can't see -- or simply refuse to admit publicly -- that this monitoring and collection of "racial" data perpetuates the myth of the existence of distinct "races" and seeks to emphasize the "differences" between them.

Sadly, regarding the mixed-race community, many of these "civil rights" leaders genuinely lack the intellectual capacity to fathom a group of self-determined beings who care not to be caught up in "racial" monitoring schemes, people who care not about constitutionally protected status, people who are more than willing to fight their own "individual" battles without unsolicited help from the collective. ("We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.")

This inability to understand is not unlike the glazed-over-eyes reaction one gets while attempting to engage the average human in a discussion of religion versus spirituality. Not only is the latter as far above his head as a streaking jet, he's annoyed that the plane is making so much noise.

(How much did James Byrd, Jr.'s "protected" status help him as three alleged "white" supremacists tied him to the back of a pickup and then dragged him to his death in Jasper, Texas? That heinous crime did allow Jesse Jackson, Kweisi Mfume and the rest of the usual cast of characters to grab the media spotlight yet again and declare: "See? You folk still need us! We're still relevant! Well, aren't we?" As I wrote in "White" Skin Privilege and "Black" Nationalism, the key to resolving America's "racial" problem does not lie in forcing "protected status" upon anyone. Rather, it rests in educating our children about the bogus nature of "race." It's that simple!)

Kweisi Mfume's performance on This Week effectively established the NAACP as the paramount political enemy of those mixed-race persons who believe that rights inhere to the individual, not to artificial "racial" or "ethnic" groups, persons who believe that voluntary group affiliation is, at best, a tertiary matter after self and family.

Perplexing Embrace of Don King
At the NAACP's national convention last year in Pittsburgh, Kweisi Mfume unbelievably bestowed the organization's President's Award upon boxing promoter Don King. Not only was King under investigation by Federal prosecutors in an insurance fraud case, but Mike Tyson has since sued him for allegedly stealing tens of millions of dollars from the former heavyweight boxing champion's purses. So much for presenting top-tier role models to "black" youth who already question the group's relevancy. You also have to wonder how much dinero King may have contributed to reducing the NAACP's $4.8 million debt.

Boycott of 40th anniversary commemoration in Little Rock & NAACP's clamoring for reparations for slavery
Last September, both the state and local chapters of the NAACP boycotted the 40th anniversary commemoration of the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. According to press reports, they did so because they maintain the U.S. has made little progress in "race" relations over the last 40 years. Since leadership of any organization begins at the top, you can't help believing that the Little Rock boycott had the blessing of Kweisi Mfume.

Taken together, a discussion of the aforementioned segregated education for "black" kids, the mind-blowing claim that America has made little "racial" progress over the past 40 years and a call for reparations -- didn't slavery end one-hundred and thirty three years ago? -- reflect a sociopolitical philosophy that seeks to keep "black" folk's collective attention riveted on past hardship and heartache instead of urging them as individuals to both look and strive forward. As Shelby Steele writes in his book "The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America": "When our leaders put a spotlight on our victimization and seize upon our suffering to gain us ineffectual concessions, they inadvertently turn themselves into enemies of the truth, not to mention enemies of their own people."

As NAACP delegates and board members make their way to Atlanta this month for their annual convention, they must surely be concerned with the image and relevancy of any organization that appears to be living in the past, unwilling to acknowledge progress, committed to safeguarding the evil construct of "race" solely in the name of preserving and wielding political power.

Nowadays, however, the leader of any "civil rights" organization is but a talking-head, a manifestation of the collective desire of the general membership and board of directors. In that light, NAACP members need to look at themselves first, as Kweisi Mfume can only act and speak in a manner sanctioned by them. If the NAACP has moved toward being a "blacks" only club -- fronting for separatist interests -- organization members are primarily to blame.

As a struggling baseball team cannot practically fire all twenty-five active roster players, the manager's head is usually the first to roll. This at least alerts aficionados of the sport to management's awareness of the problem and to its attempt to apply the brakes to a protracted losing skid.

That said, I would ask each NAACP general and board member to both privately and honestly mull over one question: Concerning your current president and chief executive officer, Mr. Mfume, are you proud?


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