Yet, a large slice of black life is in sad shape and going backwards. Over the same period since the 1960s, black illegitimacy has almost quadrupled, black families headed by single women have tripled, almost half the number of homicides in the country are among black men, half of our new AIDS cases are among black women, many black kids do not make it through school and those that graduate do so with eighth-grade reading skills, and crime and unemployment are rampant in our inner cities.
According to reports, partisan remarks made by NAACP chairman Julian Bond attacking President Bush have provoked an IRS investigation into the organization's 501c3 tax-free status. This certainly must be contributing to the internal tensions there. However, I think the real shock waves that shook this organization were created by Bill Cosby's remarks at a NAACP gathering in Washington earlier this year.
In those well-publicized observations, Cosby shocked an audience of the black establishment with truth. He attacked the politics of victimization _ the very point of existence today of the NAACP. Cosby began a campaign that night, which he continues today, of formulating a message that will foster a new culture of responsibility in the inner cities.
A number of months ago I was invited to address an annual meeting of a local NAACP chapter in a Midwestern city. The invitation came somewhat reluctantly as result of pressure from a local donor who had made a recent major contribution to the chapter. A few board members actually boycotted my speech. Nevertheless, I spoke to a sellout crowd and delivered my usual message that the answer to poverty does not lie in government but in personal responsibility, ownership and faith. The standing ovation I got told me that I had indeed struck a responsive chord.
As the NAACP leadership looks for a new president, I urge them to stop looking in the rear view mirror and start focusing on the road ahead. The organization should use its prestige and $40 million budget to help blacks use the freedom they now have. They should abandon the destructive politics of hate and guilt and start getting out the truth, that life is defined by struggle, and that the principles that form the foundation of freedom transcend race. With this message and real work, we can again move our community forward.