Bruce Gordon, who has resigned as president of the NAACP, got a crash course in the difference between the world of politics and the world of business. The former is driven by power and control, the latter by markets and service.
It's why countries with more of the former and less of the latter tend to be poorer than those where it is the other way around.
And it is one particular irony that the NAACP, an organization born with an agenda to advance freedom, over time morphed into an organization defined in every dimension by the culture of politics.
Gordon, a businessman and corporate executive by career, made a bad business call. He assessed the situation he was getting into incorrectly and learned, as we say, the hard way. He thought they wanted him to solve problems and build a better organization. They, or maybe more precisely, Julian Bond, NAACP's chairman, were looking for someone to carry their political baggage.
Meanwhile, it's obvious that an organization where its president quits 19 months after he'd been hired to replace a predecessor who himself left under duress, is a troubled organization. If the NAACP was publicly traded its stock would be sinking.
It's clear that the organization that Bruce Gordon decided to go to work for was not the organization he thought it was.
One reason may be that the NAACP today is not the organization it once was.
Founded at the beginning of the last century, the NAACP's challenges then were clear. The legal and institutional barriers to equal treatment and due process under the law for blacks were real and tangible. It required no subtlety of thought to understand what the battle was that needed to be fought, although there were differences of opinion regarding how best to fight the battle.
With the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in1964 and 1965, that battle was won. That's not to say the struggle was over. Life's struggles are never over. But it became a different battle. Once the chains are broken, the challenge translates into a human struggle of realizing one's potential in freedom. The battlefield moves from outside to inside.But the black political leadership didn't want to let go. They wanted to keep the game political.
Today the NAACP has simply become a rote platform for left wing politics.
For reasons that I'll leave to others to explain, the organization has become more highly motivated to promote this left wing agenda than addressing the many problems of its own community.
Discussing his departure in an interview with Tavis Smiley, Gordon observed, "...In business terminology we would argue that organizations that are no longer customer focused, who lose the heart of the customer, who lose the choice of the customer, will ultimately fail."
Practically speaking, Gordon's observations are born out by the following:
Barely one in four blacks support legalization of gay marriage. Yet, one would be hard pressed to find a lawsuit pushing for gay marriage in which the NAACP is not a plaintiff.
Black support for school vouchers is stronger than white support. Almost three out of four blacks between the ages of 26 to 35 support vouchers.
Similarly with personal Social Security accounts. Young blacks poll strongly in favor. The NAACP opposes.
Even moderate black journalists now recognize and write that the challenge in black America today is social. Aids, abortion, family breakdown, crime, poor education. These are problems of values and lifestyle, not politics.
Yet, like the old saw that to a man with hammer everything looks like a nail, NAACP leaders interpret the clear moral and social crisis in our inner cities as a political problem in need of government solutions. Ironically, and tragically, it was the invasion of government into family life, through the welfare state, that precipitated black family breakdown to begin with.
To Bruce Gordon's credit, he wanted to transform the NAACP into an organization in which blacks take responsibility for identifying and trying to solve the problems in their own community.
This was obviously too much for an organization that wants to pursue "social justice" in a world in which most black babies are born with no father at home.
The NAACP has become a symptom of the problems in black America rather than a source for solutions. Perhaps this latest crisis will provoke some badly needed soul searching and change.