Under ordinary circumstances, considering the great deal of respect I once had for Kweisi Mfume, I would in this piece review his accomplishments during his tenure at the NAACP. However, there aren't many expectations that I've had of the organization. So if he did a good job by NAACP standards is something I wouldn't really bother to know much about. I admit it, I'm apathetic.
The NAACP puts a face, sometimes a cockeyed face, on matters of racial outrage. This is an admirable task except for the fact that the majority of Americans echo that outrage anyway. There is rarely an event of racial significance that the blogosphere, the punditocracy or anybody with a mouth big enough to get on television, doesn't say just as much as the NAACP. So why isn't their membership larger?
The reason is simple. The NAACP is a black political organization. It's not about people of color, it's about blackfolks. My expectation was that Mfume would, in wresting control from that demagogue Ben Chavis, bring the strength of the Multicultural Movement front and center in the new NAACP. From my perspective, there is nothing fundamentally different about racial issues facing blacks in 2004 that weren't there in 1996, but clearly the opportunity to get Asians and Latinos swelling the ranks of the NAACP is lost. So as far as I can see, it's the same organization it was before Chavis, back on the rails, solvent, black, boring and almost superfluous. That is, superfluous to blackfolks as a voice of outrage.
That the NAACP is black and not Asian and Latino is a problem. It is a problem that the NAACP must resolve or face increased marginalization. Its byline is that it is the oldest Civil Rights organization. That's like saying the Communist Party is the oldest party in Russia. That means it's more about the past than the present. Problem.
Mfume, I'm sure, did a decent and respectable job at the organization, he simply didn't do the job that might save the NAACP from obsolescence. So who's next?