The price of silence

Editor, The Black Commentator, 17 October 2002

At times it seems we can almost hear the roar of approaching war—but little outcry is heard from the national office of the NAACP. Sadu Nanjundiah, a physics teacher at Central Connecticut State University, is more than disappointed with the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

I am a subscriber to Black Commentator and appreciate the views and news of the African-American community. I am sorry that the NAACP has not taken a strong stand against the impending Bush war against Iraq. It is illegitimate and immoral, given the terrible innocent casualties that will result from bombing. When the U.S. Army is sent in, African-American soldiers will be on the front line in great numbers bearing the brunt of any battle.

The National Security Adviser, Dr. Rice, is wholly unrepresentative of the feelings in the community. I was aghast when she received the NAACP Image Award recently. Even worse is the silence of the NAACP in face of the targeted attacks against African-American Congressional Representatives like Ms. Cynthia McKinney and Mr. Earl Hilliard.

NAACP officials we have talked to stress that the organization is a non-partisan, democratic, deliberative body that has not had the opportunity to discuss the imminent hostilities at a full meeting of the board. On the syndicated TV program America's Black Forum, NAACPChairman Julian Bond voiced his personal opposition to a unilateral U.S. first strike against Iraq. “I don't think that a majority of the American people are for that,” said Bond, adding, “I speak only for myself.”

NAACP Executive Director Kweisi Mfume, of course, has a long way to go to make up for giving the Image Award to Condoleezza Rice, who is now the African American female image of aggression.

The organization cannot avoid its responsibilities much longer. “The NAACP can no longer afford to be hypocritically silent as African-Americans are used/recruited to conspicuously perpetrate injustices abroad, as we cry for relief from similar injustices at home,” wrote Rev. Curtis Gatewood, president of the Durham branch of the NAACP, in a letter to Mfume.

Gatewood was reprimanded by the NAACP national office last year for calling upon Blacks to refuse to serve in Afghanistan. At that time, Mfume issued a statement: “This is a time for all Americans to stand united and defend the ideals of a free and open society where terrorism has no place.”

The Durham activist has all but dared Mfume to strip him of his chapter presidency, declaring that the national office's silence is “keeping us side-tracked and artificially united around the flag of patriotism that is deceitfully waved in the clouds of racism. I'm saying the NAACP should pick up the banner and be on the front line for world justice, not just American justice.”