The NAACP Is Right, Cont.

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Dave notes the following ridiculous statement from Tea Party Patriot leadership:


The NAACP has long history of liberalism and racism. If you are a conservative -- including a conservative African-American -- there is no room for you at the NAACP. If you have opinions that differ from the NAACP and the liberal establishment, and if you are African-American, you are an "Uncle Tom," a "negro," "not black enough" and "against our people."

Citing his own posts, Dave asserts:

When I said the NAACP's move would backfire, I meant things like this would happen. I didn't mean they were wrong to go down that road. It's just that they should know that calling out a group for "racism" is pointless -- whoever's been targeted will simply claim to have been attacked unfairly and had his free speech threatened.Remember what happened when Eric Holder said that America had been a "nation of cowards" in discussing race. Boom: Backlash. Anger. Debate over why he said it, but not what he meant. A year and change later we have a ridiculous national debate over whether Holder's department hates white people because it won't draw and quarter the New Black Panther Party. This stuff is what he meant, of course. But saying it isn't actually starting the debate. It's pretty obvious that the NAACP failed here.

One way of looking at the Tea Party Patriot statement on the facts. It is true that NAACP is fairly liberal. It is also true that Michael Steele is arguably the most prominent black conservative in America. He is also--among many other things--a member of the NAACP, and thus presumably part of a racist group. 

To the extent that the NAACP has, as Dave says, "failed," it is because the arbiters of facts have ceded ground, and reporters and writers dutifully, and uncritically, dispense the notion that an organization which helped birth modern America has "a long history of...racism." But it also fails because there is very little pushback on this notion from "sensible" liberal writers. (I don't include Dave among them, mind you.) Instead we're getting calls for the president to condemn the NAACP, essentially, for being the NAACP. 

Dave concedes that the NAACP has a case, but concludes that they're wrong for making it. But they're only wrong for making it because the broader society, evidently, believes that objecting to a call for literacy tests is, in fact, just as racist as a call for literacy tests. This inversion, this crime against sound logic, is at the heart of American white supremacy, and at the heart of a country that has nurtured white supremacy all these sad glorious years. 

It is the Founders claiming all men are created equal while building a democracy on property in human beings. It is Confederates crying tyranny, while erecting a country based on tyranny. It is Sherman discriminating against black soldiers, while claiming that his superiors are discriminating against whites. It's Ben Tillman justifying racial terrorism, by claiming that he's actually fighting against terrorism. It is George Wallace defending a system built on bombing children in churches, and then asserting that the upholders of that system are "the greatest people to ever trod this earth."

Those who employ racism are not in the habit of confessing their nature--inversion is their cloak. Cutting out the cancer means confronting that inversion, means not wallowing in on-the-other-handism, in post-racialism, means seeing this as more than some kind of political game. Someone has, indeed, failed here. It is not the NAACP.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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