The surprise resignation of Kweise Mfume as president of the NAACP should prompt national leaders to engage in introspection and reevaluation.
The national leadership has lost its way. It sends a message today to its own community that is, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, destructive. Its agenda, the pure politics of victimization, is a caricature of what the NAACP was originally about.
The heads of local NAACP chapters that I meet are out of step with their national leaders and sound much more like local church pastors. Perhaps because these chapter heads live in close proximity to the troubled communities with which they work, they understand that the problems in black communities today reflect the challenges of the business of living and not the business of politics.
As John McWhorter of the Manhattan Institute has aptly put it, today racism is not the main problem of African Americans, but rather "...the mundane tasks of teaching those 'left behind' after the civil rights victory how to succeed in a complex society.."
The NAACP has a proud history at the center of the civil rights movement. But, recall the old saying that everything looks like a nail to a man with a hammer. For years, physical, political and legal barriers stood between blacks and freedom. The NAACP and the civil rights movement were born to tear these barriers down and won historic and glorious victories.
Unfortunately, after the victories of the 1960s, black leadership, typified by the NAACP, refused to turn from the business of politics to the business of living. The leaders transformed a creative struggle for liberation into the destructive politics of anger and guilt. By turning their energies to building a new welfare state and culture of litigation, these civil rights leaders of the 1960s created as many problems as they solved.
On the one hand, there have been undeniable gains in the black community. A new black middle class has emerged in which the percentage of black households with a real gross income over $75,000 has quadrupled since 1970. The wage gap percentage between black and white workers is half today of what it was in the 1960s. Blacks now hold top-level positions in government and business that would have been inconceivable 40 years ago.