The recent announcement by the NAACP of a major retrenchment due to funding shortfalls received brief coverage and got scant attention.
But I think it is an important story that should get attention, because it is a story as much about the real challenges facing our country today as it is about the NAACP.
The NAACP announced that it will cut its national staff by 40 percent and that seven regional offices will be cut -- at least temporarily. Several weeks before this the organization announced a delay of plans to move from Baltimore to fancy new headquarters in Washington.
It should be of interest to everyone why the nation's oldest and most prestigious civil-rights organization is faltering and on shaky ground.
The last headlines generated by the organization came with the departure earlier in the year of its president of only 18 months, Bruce Gordon. Gordon's hire was an attention-getter because he was not a civil-rights-movement veteran, but one of the nation's most prominent black corporate executives.
The decision seemed to reflect thinking that the organization needed management and fund-raising talent.
But it was a brief marriage, as Gordon clashed with the organization's board. He wanted to roll up his sleeves and address practical problems in the community. Board members felt that the organization's mission should be "social justice."
In an interview shortly after he departed, Gordon analyzed the NAACP's problems and summed them up as typical of any business that has lost touch with its customers.
Gordon touched the heart of the problem. But I would take it a step further. Not only has the organization lost touch with the realities and needs of black America, but it is driven by an agenda that is actually damaging its own community.
I see African-American history unfolding in three chapters: slavery; Jim Crow (the period from the end of the Civil War through the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964); and the post-1964 welfare state.
The struggle of the first two chapters was a struggle against external oppression. The inspiration and guidance for these struggles was taken from Scripture and the church. Politics was the means through which the moral injustices were fought.
With the heady victories of the church-inspired civil-rights movement, blacks fell in love with the tools of battle -- politics -- and lost sight of the moral beacons that defined that battle.
Politics and government were transformed from the means through which we fought oppression to the very source of defining justice and for fixing our lives.
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