That’s the sentiment of Blacks in Los Angeles after learning that Leon Jenkins, the president of Los Angeles chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, more commonly referred to as the NAACP, was set to honor Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling with a humanitarian award next week—a follow up to the Lifetime Achievement award bestowed upon him from the same organization in 2009.
Sterling wasn’t getting the award because he did something particularly worthy of honoring, but rather because, like with a lot of non-profits and their honorees, he fell into one of two categories—elected official or donor.
I am not anti-NAACP, but I do agree, it is time for Leon Jenkins to step aside. Sterling’s feelings towards Blacks and “colored people” in general were made clear years ago. And had his most recent racist comments not been made public, the fact of the matter is, the Los Angeles NAACP would still be honoring him next week and most of us wouldn’t even have known about it.
As a 36-year-old native Angeleno and African-American, the NAACP has never been particularly relevant to me and the same can probably be said for other African-Americans in my generation and younger. I think the NAACP name carries more weight in every community but the Black community in Los Angeles, and that’s sad for an organization that historically has been at the forefront of representing African-Americans on our most critical civil rights issues.
But it’s 2014 and the fact is the average NAACP member is 65-years-old. They are the Blacks who grew up during the struggle for civil rights and who remember what it felt like to sit in the back of the bus or to drink from colored only water fountains. For them the NAACP will always be relevant because back then the organization was active and was in the streets with the people doing the work that needed to done.
But a lot has changed since the 1965 Civil Rights Movement. Blacks my age don’t know what it’s like to live under Jim Crow so we don’t have the same feelings for the organization. Yes, our lives are better for the work that the NAACP and other civil rights organizations did—but today, these same groups just aren’t relevant to everyday Blacks. Today’s groups have been reduced to hosting quarterly luncheons and dinners where the average ticket price is $150 and posing for photos with elected officials in newspapers that they’ve endorsed on behalf of African-Americans.
Meanwhile, on the streets of Los Angeles, Black unemployment is at an all time high, our children make up the majority of those on foster care, and African-American homeowners are struggling to keep their homes. All issues that the NAACP should be representing African-Americans … not just in the political and donor arenas, but in public and doesn’t. I can’t remember the last time the NAACP in Los Angeles held a town hall meeting about anything. Yet and still it managed to have a press conference to try and save face from the news it was about to honor a staunch racist with a second award but hasn’t reached out to the African-Americans in Los Angeles to say anything.