Transcript of Julian Bond's Speech During 96th Annual Convention

To Board Member Frank Humphrey, Vice-Chair Roslyn Brock, members of the Board of Directors and SCF Trustees, NAACP staff, NAACP members, friends and guests ? welcome to Milwaukee ? home of beer, brats, and the Bradley Foundation(i). The first two many of you will enjoy; I'll speak more about the third later on. But as the song says, "Two out of three ain't bad."

I am sorry to begin with some bad news ? for the fifth year in a row, the President of the United States will not grace us with his presence. He is the first President since Herbert Hoover not to speak to us. The good news is that next year we'll meet right in the nation's capital, Washington, DC, blocks from the White House, and Mr. President, we're extending the invitation a year in advance. We want to see you and we want you to see us ? we want to know you think you're our president too.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott - the event that introduced Martin Luther King, Jr. to the world. He was only twenty-six years old.

At that early age and at the early stage of the boycott, King understood its historical significance. Four days after Rosa Parks stood up for justice by sitting down, the boycott began. That evening, at the first mass meeting, King declared:

"? When the history books are written in the future, somebody will have to say, 'there lived a race of people, a black people ? who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights. And thereby they injected a new meaning into the veins of history and civilization."(ii)

King did not exaggerate. Montgomery was the beginning of a mass movement that destroyed segregation and permanently changed our world.

Thus it is no coincidence that this year we also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

King was the most famous and well known of the modern movement's personalities, but it was a people's movement. It produced leaders of its own; but it relied not on the noted but the nameless, not on the famous but the faceless. It didn't wait for commands from afar to begin a campaign against injustice. It saw wrong and acted against it; it saw evil and brought it down.

Historian Clayborn Carson writes:

"Although King played a crucial role in transforming a local boycott into a social justice movement of international significance, he was himself transformed by a movement he did not initiate."(iii)

Ella Baker put it more succinctly: "The movement made Martin rather than Martin making the movement."

In Montgomery the boycott owed its success to what historian Carson calls the "self-reliant NAACP stalwarts who acted on their own before King could lead."(iv)

"Self-reliant NAACP stalwarts" ? the conscience of a nation.

When our enslaved foreparents were stolen from their villages and sold into bondage and put on ships and packed into holds and sailed away from land, for a short time they could see the land disappearing behind them.

For a while they could see the heat rising from the land they could no longer see. And then for a while they saw the land clouds floating on the heat they could not see above the land that had also disappeared from view.

And then a day came when they could not see the land or the heat or the clouds ? they could not see where they were and they did not know where they were.

And they did not know where they were going.

Not where they were. Not where they were going. But they knew who they were.

And we know who we are ? we are the conscience of a nation. That is our inheritance ? the bequest of bondage, the legacy of lynching.

More than 4,000 blacks were lynched from 1882 to 1942. "All blacks lived with the reality that no black individual was completely safe from lynching." (v) Because "white society refused to take any effective action to stop lynching,"(vi) the NAACP's major campaign during its first four decades was against the barbaric practice of ritual human sacrifice.

In May, 1911, the NAACP Board passed a resolution regarding a Kentucky lynching in which a black man was taken from jail and placed on the stage of the town's opera house. The crowd paid admission to fire at the victim ? those in the orchestra seats got six shots, those in the gallery, one. The Board resolution called this the "culmination of spectacular, revolting, barbarous brutality" that "impeached our civilization." (vii)

Walter White wrote of the 1918 lynching of pregnant Mary Turner in Valdosta, Georgia. After she had been tied to a tree and burned:

"a man stepped forward with a pocketknife and ripped open her abdomen in a crude Caesarean operation. 'Out tumbled the prematurely born child,'" White wrote. "'Two feeble cries it gave ? and received for the answer the heel of a stalwart man, as life was ground out of the tiny form.'" (viii)

If a United States Senator, in the year 2005, can't apologize for that, what outrage is deserving of an apology? And who is deserving of a Senate seat?

Last month the Senate considered a "resolution apologizing for past failures to pass anti-lynching laws." But they did not do so with a roll call vote that would have put Senators on record. Instead, the Senate Majority Leader allowed the resolution to be adopted under a "voice vote procedure" that did not require any Senator's presence.

Since you don't need to be present for Dr. Frist to diagnose your medical condition, why should he require your presence to vote?

The good doctor's tactic allowed eight Senators to dodge the apology, but they deserve a roll call here: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Trent Lott of Mississippi, John Sununu of New Hampshire and Craig Thomas of Wyoming.

Janet Langhart Cohen, wife of former Defense Secretary William Cohen, and a member of the Committee for a Formal Apology, said of these Senators: "? they're hiding out, and it's reminiscent of a pattern of hiding out under a hood, in the night, riding past, scaring people." (ix)

The resolution was important enough to one 91-year-old American that he made the trip from his home here in Milwaukee to the Senate gallery for the vote. Seventy-five years ago, when he was 16, James Cameron was arrested and jailed, along with two other young black men, for the robbery, rape and assault of a white couple in Marion, Indiana. A mob came to the jail. After his two friends were lynched, the mob came for young James. He was beaten, dragged to the tree from which his friends were hanging, and had a rope placed around his neck. Then for some reason, the rope was removed, and James was allowed to walk back to the jail. He served four years in prison, although the female victim later confirmed his innocence.

Mr. Cameron would go on to organize three NAACP chapters in Indiana, becoming the President of the Madison County Branch in the 1940s.

In 1993, 63 years after he survived the lynching, Mr. Cameron was pardoned by Indiana Governor Evan Bayh. He has founded the American Black Holocaust Museum here in Milwaukee ? it is well worth a visit while you are here.

Tonight we are honored to have our nation's only lynching survivor here with us. Mr. James Cameron, we salute you.

There is not a single American ?black, white, male, female, Christian, Moslem or Jewish, straight or gay ? who is not a beneficiary of the work the NAACP did in the past and is doing today.

As I was preparing these remarks, I looked for the NAACP on "GOOGLE NEWS". I found over 2, 000 items. Here are just a few.

? The NAACP Youth and College Division released our manual on racial profiling at our Regional Conference in Texas. Based on data gathered from the University of Texas, the University of Houston, Texas Tech, Stephen Austin University, Texas State at San Marcos and Sam Houston State, it will provide invaluable information for college students of color at these and other schools.

? The Roanoke, Virginia Branch, while strongly supporting treatment for drug addicts, opposed placing a methadone clinic near three schools.

? The Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP planned a march through New Orleans' French Quarter to object to the killing of a black college student by three night club bouncers.

? The Southeastern Region NAACP announced the opening of its annual Diversity Job Far in Atlanta.

? The Baltimore NAACP asked the FBI to investigate the death of an inmate after he was beaten by correctional officers at the city jail.

? The Compton, California NAACP met with the Los Angeles County Sheriff in their continuing protests against 120 shots fired at an unarmed black man.

? And in Covington, Louisiana, the NAACP elected a white woman as President of the Branch.

If you are a parent of school age children in Florida today, your kids can look forward to an improved learning environment in smaller classes, thanks to the NAACP. We helped put a referendum reducing class size on the Florida ballot, and the people overwhelmingly voted "yes." Governor Jeb Bush tried to roll it back, and the legislature said "no", all thanks to the NAACP.

If you live in Baytown, Virginia, your small community has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in well-deserved aid over recent years. State and federal agencies had ignored this tiny black town, but we put the spotlight on them and the money poured forth ? thanks to the NAACP.

If you belong to a motorcycle club ? and many Africans-Americans do(x) ? you can now go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and be treated with respect, not contempt, thanks to the NAACP. Myrtle Beach's mayor claimed white motorcyclists were quiet and peaceable; blacks on wheels, he opined, were dope-smoking rowdy lawbreakers. We said to the Mayor, you're wrong, and just two months ago the courts said we were right.

If you're a felon in Pennsylvania, and have served your time, your right to cast a vote has been restored, thanks to the NAACP.

If you stay in a hotel chain anywhere in America, if you drive a car, if you use modern telecommunications, or if you're employed at any level in the hospitality, automobile or telecommunications industries, the chances the business you work for or use employs African-Americans in jobs from top to bottom, has blacks on its board of directors, buys goods and services from black businesses have improved, thanks to the NAACP.

Our annual report cards give these industries grades from "A" to "F," and if you think they don't care, remember how you felt when you brought that "D" home to your parents. They care, thanks to the NAACP.

If you're Sidney Poitier ? and who among the men here doesn't wish he were ? when you sum up your career, you say, "Thanks to the NAACP," as did the late Ray Charles. Kerry Washington, the young co-star of "Ray," said she too gave thanks to the NAACP.

We are the largest volunteer association for justice in the United States. We are the highest expression of self help. Our membership is not confined to black women and men and youth. We are black and white and red and yellow.

And we are gay and lesbian. We are a cross section of America, heavily weighted toward African-Americans, but in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, we believe colored people come in all colors, all ages and races, in both genders.

Anyone who shares our mission and values is welcome. Our values are American values - we believe in tolerance, inclusion, equality, celebrating the worth of every human being.

In March, we asked the prestigious National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago to conduct a survey of attitudes among African-Americans and the general public. This is what they found.

Among a list of non-profit organizations, nearly 40% of whites think the NAACP is "extremely" or "very" important; 46% of Hispanics think the same, and almost 80% of African Americans give us this high rating.

And when black respondents are divided by age, more than 80% over 60 think the NAACP is "important"; 80% of blacks between 45 and 59 think the same; almost 80% between 30 and 44 agree, and 70% of blacks between 18 and 29 also think the NAACP is "important".

We rank higher than the Urban League and the ACLU in familiarity among whites, higher than the Scouts among Hispanics, and higher than every group except the Red Cross among blacks.

Almost three-quarters - 73% - of blacks see the NAACP as effective, as do a majority of whites (57%) and a strong minority of Hispanics (40%).

Almost 80% of blacks agree with the NAACP's agenda; fewer than 3% disagree.

That's where we are in American public opinion today. That's why we are the conscience of the nation.

We are part of a progressive coalition in America that over decades created a truly compassionate government. It introduced Social Security and protection for workers. It helped outlaw racial discrimination. It made preservation of the environment a national priority. It gave Americans access to the courts when calamity struck and redress was required. All this and more came about because a coalition of the concerned worked together and voted together to make the benefits of our democracy extend to all.

But in recent years, in a stealthy, devious campaign, the enemies of justice and fair play have whittled away at the components of the progressive coalition. They have successfully promoted deeply flawed economic and foreign policies. They have passed tax cuts that were not only unfair but unaffordable.

Ideas of government that were marginal, even delusional, have moved to center stage. The wacky has become the reality, the unimaginable is now taken for everyday truth.

How did they do it? How did they make political hay from barnyard straw?

They did it by coupling ostentatious piety with a victim mentality. They quoted Martin Luther King and misused his message, all the while profiting from a supine press. They reinforced their message by harnessing a round-the-clock perpetual motion attack machine and echo chamber.

They've restricted access to the courts, capped damages for even the most egregious practices, eviscerated class action lawsuits, and not coincidentally, shielded industry after industry from legal scrutiny.

They've tried an aggressive campaign to seduce black clergy and create a brand new political party, whose initials are F-B-G. That stands for the Faith Based Grant Party. Their hope is to create an alliance of the neo-cons and the theo-cons, all tied together by federal cash.

They've gone after labor unions, making it harder for workers to organize, forbidding Transportation Security Administration employees the right to collectively bargain for better pay and better working conditions.

They're attacking Social Security, the underpinning of every American's dream of retirement free from need and want.

They want private charity to replace government's helping hand, substituting faith-based organizations free to discriminate and proselytize for the fairness and secularism required of the public sector. They offer America a challenge ? do we want to fight social inequality through the common power of a democratic government accountable to all the people, or will we pass off the problems of the poor and neglected to the church and the Salvation Army?

They've outsourced thousands and thousands of jobs; now they're even outsourcing torture, sending suspects to foreign lands. (xii)

Their budget is bush. It gives us the real meaning of the "ownership society" ? a society where you're on your own. "They're waging class war from the top down, literally taking food from the mouths of poor children and giving more largess to millionaires." (xiii)

.They're practicing trickle-down economics, and I'm tired of it trickling on us.

They profess to being true believers, but they are really true deceivers. The Bible teaches us that: "[h]e who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker. But he that honors Him hath mercy on the poor." (xiv)

Equally deceptive is their approach to civil rights. Last fall the United States Commission on Civil Rights issued a report confirming that the administration, at best, has neglected civil rights issues and, at worst, has been aggressively hostile to them. The report lists numerous examples of administration attempts to abolish affirmative action and its concentration on alleged voter fraud at the expense of voter enfranchisement.

The President likes to talk the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk. The report documents that of his public pronouncements on civil rights, fewer than 20% have outlined plans for action. And of those, more than half pertained to so-called "faith-based initiatives."

Now they've banished the "uppity" Mary Berry to the woodshed and installed in her place as Commission Chair Gerald Reynolds, whose claim to fame is his outspoken opposition to race-based college admissions.

Reynolds once ran the Center for New Black Leadership, one of many organizations dedicated to overturning the gains of the civil rights movement by putting a black face on civil rights opposition.

The very names of these groups ? the Institute for Justice, the Center for Individual Rights, the American Civil Rights Institute ? are fraudulent, and their aims are frightening.

Having stolen our vocabulary, they also want to steal the just spoils of our righteous war.

They are funded by an interlocking network of foundations ? one of them Milwaukee's own Bradley Foundation.

They are the money, the motivation and the movement behind vouchers, the legal assault on affirmative action and other remedies for discrimination, attempts to reapportion us out of office, and attacks on equity everywhere.

They've had a collection of black hustlers and hucksters on their payrolls for more than twenty years, promoting them as a new generation of black leaders. They can't deal with the leaders we choose for ourselves ? so they manufacture, promote and hire new ones. The late Lee Atwater predicted this course years ago ? he said we're going to create "an alternative leadership structure" in black America, and they have. (xv)

Like ventriloquists' dummies, they speak in their puppet master's voice, but we can see his lips move and we can hear his money talk.

They've financed a conservative constellation of make-believe black-faced front organizations, all of them hollow shells with more names on the letterhead than there are people on their membership rolls.

They argue that the civil rights laws of the 1960s eliminated all discrimination, that the playing field is now level, that every contestant stands equal at the starting line. That some contestants have no shoes, that others find their legs gripped by heavy baggage from the past, and that an advantaged few begin the race at the finish line is of no consequence to these champions of the new order.

Today's civil rights movement doesn't suffer from its imagined excesses, but from the lies and distortions of its opponents. They tell us discrimination against racial minorities is not a problem; society must protect itself from discrimination against the majority instead.

They tell us civil rights remedies produce civil wrongs.

They tell us class, not race, produces racial inequity, that culture, not color, separates black from white. They reject the intergenerational effects of racism as a cause of disadvantage; discrimination is dead, they say, and cannot be at fault.

When the topic is black unemployment ? always twice the rate for those whose skins are white ? they say past and present discrimination plays no role. But when the subject is welfare dependency, crime, or other so-called "pathologies," these neo-segregationists never tire of listing the cumulative effects of our racist past.

They used to say that slavery had been a civilizing influence, that lynching was caused by "Negro criminality,"(xvi) that Jim Crow laws were paternalistic efforts to protect black people. Now they want Americans to believe that the "race" problem is due to black rage, to white liberal guilt, to what they call racial "preferences," and to black pathology.

We emphatically reject this new racist ideology.

We know that in some important ways nonwhite Americans face problems more difficult to attack now than in the years that went before. We believe these problems, old ones and new ones, have their root in race and racial discrimination. So when we are asked why the NAACP doesn't focus on social service, we respond that we are an organization that fights racial discrimination.

The original incorporation papers of the NAACP listed as its goals:

"To promote equality of rights and eradicate caste or racial prejudice among the citizens of the United States; to advance the interests of colored citizens; to secure for them impartial suffrage; and to increase their opportunities for securing justice in the courts, education for their children, and complete equality before the law."

That remains our mission today.

There are thousands of organizations in America which deliver social service, and properly so. The NAACP is one of very few which concentrates on social justice. We believe that racial discrimination is a prime reason why the gaps between black and white life chances remain so wide. And we believe that to the degree we are able to reduce discrimination and close these race-caused gaps, we will see the lives of our people improve and their prosperity increase. We believe when our people have more social justice, they will need less social service.

One central issue on the civil rights agenda ? economic justice ? remains unfulfilled and largely unaddressed. Martin Luther King Jr. lost his life supporting a garbage workers' strike in Memphis; the right to decent work at decent pay is as basic to our freedom as the right to vote.

"Negroes," Dr. King said in 1961, "are almost entirely a working people. There are pitifully few Negro millionaires and few Negro employers. Our needs are identical to labor's needs ? decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in their community."

That there are more black millionaires today is tribute to the movement King led. That there are proportionately fewer blacks working today is an indictment of our times and our economic system, a reflection of our challenges in keeping the movement coming on.

The median white household today has 62% more income and twelve times as much wealth as the median black household. Sixty-one percent of African-Americans and half of all Latinos have no financial assets at all.(xvii)

Happily, the NAACP has as its CEO-elect a man who understands these challenges well and already has said he wants to make economic justice one of his priorities as our new leader.

Bruce Gordon comes to us after a 35-year career in telecommunications, most recently as President of Verizon's Retail Markets Group. In this capacity, he managed a workforce of 35,000 and was responsible for $23 billion in revenue.

And ? Bruce is a son of the NAACP. His father, Walter Gordon, was a founding member of the Camden, New Jersey Branch, and served for many years as its Treasurer.

And ? just like me ? Bruce is married to someone who is smarter and better looking than he is. Tawana Tibbs also enjoyed a successful career as a telecommunications executive. During her career, she was an active member of black, Hispanic, and women's employee resource groups and the National Association of Black Telecommunications Professionals.

Bruce and Tawana ? please stand, so we can welcome you into the NAACP family.

We also ought to extend our thanks to Interim President/CEO Dennis Hayes; once again, as he did in the past, he has taken the helm of the NAACP in a transition time, and we are grateful for his careful stewardship.

Thanks go too to Interim General Counsel Angela Ciccolo ? who stepped up to replace Dennis Hayes and performed her task admirably.

Forty years ago last March, President Lyndon Johnson spoke to Congress about new civil rights protections he was proposing. He said then:

"[T]he harsh fact is that in many places in the country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes. Every device of which human ingenuity is capable has been used to deny this right. ? Experience has clearly shown that the existing processes of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. In such a case, our duty must be clear to all of us. The Constitution says no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or color. We have all sworn an oath before God to support and favor that Constitution."

"God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will. I cannot help but believe that he really favors the undertaking that we begin here tonight."(xviii)

A week before Johnson's speech, Alabama State Troopers and mounted members of the Dallas County sheriff's posse had beaten peaceful protestors at Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge. The national outrage at Selma's Bloody Sunday met Johnson's months-old plan to insure black Southerners could vote. Within months, the 1965 Voting Rights Act became law.(xix)

It is generally agreed to be the "most effective civil rights law ever passed." The late President Ronald Reagan said it protects "the crown jewel" of our democracy. (xx)

Now, as we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Act, we also face the expiration of certain of its provisions. Three key parts of the Voting Rights Act will expire in 2007 unless Congress reauthorizes them. One is the portion which allows federal observers to go to certain jurisdictions where there is evidence of intimidation of minority voters. Another is the section which provides bilingual assistance to voters.

Third, and most important, is Section 5, which requires "pre-clearance" of changes to voting practices and procedures in covered jurisdictions. These include redistricting, annexation, at-large elections, polling place changes, and new rules for candidate qualifying ? all of which can be used to discriminate. A bi-partisan Congressional report in 1982 warned that without this provision, discrimination would reappear "overnight."

Anyone who claims that voting rights for minority Americans are now secure need only look to Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. A recent report said that 28 percent of all Ohio voters and 52 percent of black voters said they experienced problems in voting. And a dismal 19 percent of black voters expressed confidence that their votes were properly counted.(xxi)

And right here in Milwaukee, a cowardly and non-existent group calling itself the Milwaukee Black Voter League distributed a leaflet just before last fall's election, telling black citizens they couldn't vote for President if they'd already voted in an election that year; that a traffic violation made them ineligible to vote; that conviction for anything by anyone in a voter's family made the voter ineligible and that violating any of these restrictions would result in a prison term and the seizure of their children.

Making democracy safe for America's minorities is as important as making the world safe for democracy. We want elections in foreign lands to be free and fair, and we expect no less of the United States.

The NAACP has always been non-partisan, but that doesn't mean we're non-critical. And it doesn't mean we're non compos mentis.

We don't oppose political parties; we never have. We oppose wrongful policies.

The NAACP opposed going to war in Iraq. How right we were!

The war has created what its sponsors said was its cause. In this senseless war, liberators have become occupiers, and the war's defenders have descended to the lowest level of political discourse ? if you oppose the war, you oppose the troops.

That's idiotic nonsense. If it was up to us, every uniformed man and women in Iraq would be alive and safe and sound at home. We support our fighting women and men.

Our national leaders fail to understand today what one of our earliest leaders ? Dr. W. E. B. Dubois ? clearly understood years ago.

DuBois said:

"Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched ? criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led ? this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society." (xxii)

They may try to intimidate us into silence, but we will not be frightened away from the truth.

Just as they would have you believe that if you oppose the war, you are against our troops, they would also have you believe that if you don't support extremist judges, you're not a Christian. You're a heathen or worse.

But we ought to recall the words of Galileo, who said:

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect, has intended us to forgo their use."

Unfortunately, some Democrats won't take their own side in a fight, as they showed when they entered into an empty compromise on judicial nominees. The "compromise" gave new meaning to the term "bi-partisanship." It now means "one side caves in." They've redefined compromise to mean capitulation.

The agreement allowed the worst of the administration's nominees to be confirmed, including the female Clarence Thomas ? Janice Rogers Brown.

After years and years of telling us that race doesn't matter and shouldn't matter, her supporters decided race does matter after all, just as his supporters did.

Reminiscent of Thomas' confirmation fight, they played the 'race' card and the 'bootstrap' card and the 'Bible' card. This was three card monte from a stacked deck.

The 'Bible' card says people oppose the candidate not because his or her views are nutty, but because the candidate goes to church.

The 'bootstrap' card tells the story of a rise from poverty and hardship to triumph and glory. Janice Brown was touted as an Alabama sharecropper's daughter, but her father farmed 158 acres and they moved to California when she was young.

The 'race' card, of course, is the most powerful, and it trumps all the other cards in the deck.

Using race substitutes pigment for principle, and color for capability. It suggests that people of color aren't bright enough to see the difference between those who oppose and those who support civil rights. It suggests a distorted equivalence, that fights for and against constitutional rights are all the same.

These powerful cards did the job, and they even convinced some people who ought to know better, who ought to have learned their lesson when Clarence Thomas came along, shuffling his cards in his hand.

Remember what some said then? They said, "Once he gets confirmed, he'll change, you'll see."

He did change. He got worse!

Now we wait in trepidation as President Bush nominates a Supreme Court Justice. We will support any nominee who stands for justice and fair play, and oppose any who is hostile to civil rights and civil liberties.

To date, the successful Bush nominees to the federal district courts are the most conservative of any recent president. On racial discrimination, the President's federal district judges score the lowest of any modern chief executive. (xxiii)

The ideas they hold, the rulings they have made and their speeches place them in a dim and gloomy legal netherworld where few Americans wish to dwell.

We know one vote counts. One vote, for example, upheld affirmative action in higher education ? and that vote belonged to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. It is imperative that her replacement exhibit similar independence of mind and character.

Justice O'Connor has been on the court for 24 years, and her replacement is likely to serve that long or longer.

There can be no issue of greater or more immediate importance than the upcoming confirmation battle, and we intend to be in the thick of the fight.

We have a long and honorable tradition of social justice in this country. It still sends forth the message that when we act together we can overcome.

We have no permanent friends, and no permanent enemies, just permanent interests, and those interests are justice and freedom.

It is a serious mistake ? both tactical and moral ? to believe this is a fight that must or should be waged by black Americans alone. That has never been so in centuries past; it ought not to be so in the century unfolding now.

Black, yellow, red and white ? all are needed in this fight.

All of us are implicated in the continuation of inequality ? it will require our common effort to bring it to an end.

Our agenda for this new century includes litigating, organizing, continuing to mobilize, and forming coalitions of the caring and concerned, joining ranks against the comfortable, the callous and the smug.

We will fight discrimination, wherever it raises its ugly head ? in the halls of government, in corporate suites or in the streets.

We demand fair treatment for people with HIV/AIDS, especially for people of color. This disease strikes African-American women more than any other group. It doesn't happen to "others" ? it happens to all of us.

We demand that "criminal justice" ceases being an oxymoron. We know race, more than any other factor, determines who is arrested, who is tried and for what crime, who gets what length of sentence, and who receives the ultimate punishment ? and we are determined that that stop.

We must insure that our children ? in inner city and suburban and rural schools - receive the best education, an education that prepares them for the century just begun.

We must provide health care, protect Social Security, and promote peace.

There is much more - none of it easy work, but we have never wished our way to freedom. Instead, we have always worked our way.

In our tenth annual report, the NAACP said its goal was "to reach the conscience of America." (xxiv) That remains our goal today.

As Frederick Douglass taught us:

"Who would be free, must themselves strike the blow. You know that liberty given is never so precious as liberty sought for and fought for. The man outraged is the man to make the outcry. Depend upon it, men will not care much for a people who do not care for themselves."

We care for ourselves. We care for our country. We are the conscience of the nation.

CONTACT: NAACP Office of Communications 410.580.5125

Footnotes:

i "The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is a particularly interesting case. According to PFAW, Bradley, whose recipients list 'reads like a Who's Who of the U.S. Right,' is a major funding source for the Center for Individual Rights, which brought the Hopwood v. Texas case that ended affirmative action at the University of Texas law school. Bradley played a major role in financing Pete Wilson and Ward Connerly's Prop 209, and, through the Pacific Legal Foundation, Bradley 'provided pro bono representation to ...Wilson in his challenge to five state statutes dealing with affirmative action. ...' Clint Bolick, vice president of the Institute for Justice, another recipient of Bradley money, "played a pivotal role in attacks on Lani Guinier, President Clinton's nominee to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Bolick's Wall Street Journal opinion piece headlined 'Clinton's Quota Queen' dredged up the worst racist and sexist stereotypes and helped throw the Guinier nomination on the defensive. Even more striking is that Bradley grants supported Charles Murray and the late Harvard psychologist Richard Hernstein while they wrote The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. According to PFAW, 'the book was widely seen as a piece of profoundly racist and classist pseudo-science, and was denounced by the American Psychological Association. It had relied heavily on studies financed by the Pioneer Fund, a neo-Nazi organization that promoted eugenicist research. Immediately after its publication, Bradley raised Murray's annual grant to $163,000.'" In "Blackwashing" by Joshua Holland, Gadflyer, (July 26, 2004).

ii Martin Luther King, Jr. "MIA Mass Meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church" (December 5, 1955).

iii Clayborne Carson, "To Walk in Dignity: The Montgomery Bus Boycott," OAH Magazine of History at 13 (January 2005).

iv Carson, id.

v Herbert Shapiro, White Violence and Black Response at 32 (U. Mass Press 1988).

vi Id. at 31.

vii Id. at 142.

viii Lerone Bennett, Jr., Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America at 352 (Johnson Publishing Company 1987).

ix Salon.com (June 16, 2005).

x African-Americans on Wheels.

xi A 1993 leadership study by Brakeley, John Price Jones, Inc., showed 75% of blacks believed the NAACP the leader among groups with civil rights, social justice and race relations agendas. In this study, 75% of all respondents believed the NAACP adequately represented the black community. An October 1995 US News and World Report poll reported 90% of blacks supported the NAACP. In an April 1998 poll conducted by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, 81% of blacks reported a favorable opinion of the NAACP. The NAACP is profoundly democratic. "Nationally, the NAACP (of all black civil rights/political organizations) is governed by its individually based membership." In Class Notes by Adolph Reed, The New Press, New York.

xii "Torture, American Style", Bob Herbert, New York Times (February 11, 2005).

xiii Paul Krugman, "Bush's Class War Budget," New York Times (February 12, 2004).

xiv Proverbs, 14:31.

xv Holland, Id. - "Project 21 is one small part of a broad coalition of black conservative groups that fight for issues of concern to the business community. These organizations draw their intellectual inspiration from Thomas Sowell's landmark 1975 book Race and Economics, one of the founding documents of the new black conservative movement. Just as born-again conservatives like David Horowitz and Zell Miller are showered with praise and money, black conservatives are embraced and elevated by the conservative movement as living repudiations of liberalism. So Sowell and others - like Robert L. Woodson of the American Enterprise Institute, J.A. Parker of the Lincoln Institute, sometime presidential candidate Alan Keyes of Black America's PAC (BAMPAC), and Jackie Cissel of the Black Alliance for Educational Options - have little trouble finding cushy think-tank sinecures and generous support for their organizations. Many among this small group of prominent black conservatives are on several groups' advisory boards, adding to the appearance of a broad ideological movement. Cissel, for one, also serves as regional director for the African American Republican NAACP Staff, a group whose mission 'is to break the liberal Democrat stranglehold over Black America,' according to their web site. As Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten reported last year, 13 out of the 15 members of the AALRC's Advisory Panel are white. They include such well known minority champions as the Free Congress Foundation's Paul Weyrich, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, the Reverend Lou Sheldon, Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, and Fox News host Sean Hannity. What do people like Weyrich, Norquist, Bauer and Hannity have in common with the black conservatives? It's more than a common affection for low taxes and non-existent government regulation of business. Conservative activists understand that the GOP's history of tolerating bigots in their ranks and seeking out their votes, from Nixon's 'Southern Strategy' to George H.W. Bush's use of Willie Horton to George W. Bush's courting of the confederate vote in the 2000 South Carolina primary, presents a problem for moderate voters of all races. Finding African-Americans to make the conservative case goes a long way toward wiping those memories from the public mind.

Big Men on Campus

But ideology starts outside of Washington, and one of the most important ideological battle grounds for the black conservative movement is on campus, where many of the faculty in the social sciences and humanities believe the silly notion that structural racism still exists in America, and aren't afraid to say so.

So in 1998, the Young America's Foundation formed the Alternative Black Speakers Program 'in response to the overwhelmingly leftist bent of Black History Month on campuses,' according to a press release. The program sends conservative black speakers to college campuses across the country, 'giving students an alternative to the often radical and irresponsible message of black lecturers appearing on campuses as part of official university programs.' One of YAF's top executives is Floyd Brown, the infamous dirty trickster responsible for creating the 1988 anti-Dukakis ads featuring Willie Horton's menacing mug shot.

Perhaps the most visible black conservative in the campus wars is Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI). Connerly was a prot?g? of former California Governor Pete Wilson, who appointed him to the University of California's Board of Regents. Connerly drafted Wilson's anti-affirmative action initiative Prop 209, and is now attempting to bring a similar ballot measure to Michigan. When asked what he thought about Trent Lott's comments about segregation in 2002, Connerly told CNN: 'Supporting segregation need not be racist. One can believe in segregation and believe in equality of the races.' According to the civil rights group By Any Means Necessary (disclosure: I am a member of BAMN), Connerly reportedly makes $400,000 dollars per year as the president of ACRI.

Follow the Money

And that's what seems to unite these seemingly disparate groups - money. Every black conservative group I've mentioned - without exception - receives a significant portion of their funding (in some cases all of their funding) from at least three of four ultra-conservative foundations (the Lincoln Institute gets its share funneled indirectly through the conservative Hoover Institution). The four are the usual suspects of the Right's political ATM: Richard Scaife's family foundations, Adolph Coors' Castle Rock Foundation, The John M. Olin Foundation, and the Linde and Harry Bradley Foundation. What's striking about these groups' underwriting of 'minority organizations' is that some of them have at times displayed what many would consider a frankly racist agenda. Scaife has gained notoriety as one of the great funders of the "New Conservative" movement. While he is best known for his anti-Clinton activities, including paying for the American Spectator's 'Arkansas Project,' he has plenty of unsavory grantees; the Charlotte Observer reported that he provided funding for Children Requiring A Caring Community, a scary fringe group that pays poor women to be surgically sterilized or to undergo long-term birth control. According to People For The American Way (PFAW), William Coors gave a speech in 1984 in which he reportedly told a largely African American audience that 'one of the best things they [slave traders] did for you is to drag your ancestors over here in chains.' Later in the speech, he asserted that weakness in the Zimbabwe economy was due to black Africans' 'lack of intellectual capacity.' The speech drew controversy and a boycott by African American and Hispanic groups. In response, Coors pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to African American and Hispanic organizations. Apparently, black conservative groups run by white Republicans count."

xvi Shapiro, id at 31.

xvii Bill Moyers, "Take Back America Conference," June 3, 2005.

xviii President Lyndon Baines Johnson, March 15, 1965.

xix Voting Rights Act of 1965, Pub. L. No. 89-110 Stat. 37.

xx President Ronald Reagan, 18 Weekly Comp. Pres. Doc. 846 (June 29, 1982).

xxi Dan Balz, "Democrats Say 2004 Election System Failed in Ohio," The Washington Post at A-10 (June 23, 2005).

xxii W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903).

xxiii Carp, Robert A., Kenneth L. Manning and Robert D. Stidham, "The Decision-Making Behavior of George W. Bush's Judicial Appointees," 88 Judicature 20 (July-August 2004), pp 20 ? 28. The authors examine 410 decisions of Bush federal district judges in the areas of civil liberties and rights (208 decisions), labor economic regulations (118 decisions), and criminal justice (84 decisions), p. 25. They find that overall 36% of these decisions can be coded as liberal, about the same percentages as the appointees of preceding Republican presidents (p. 25). However, when the authors examine the 208 decisions in civil liberties and rights, including abortion, free speech, right to privacy, racial discrimination, affirmative action, gay rights, etc., they find only a 28% liberal score, the "lowest of any modern chief executive" (p. 26).

xxiv August Meier & John H. Bracey, Jr., "The NAACP as a Reform Movement, 1909 ? 1965:' To Reach the Conscience of America,'" The Journal of Southern History, Vol. LIX, No.1 at 6 (February 1993).

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