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The NAACP Doesn’t Want to Help You Talk About Racism

April 5, 2011

When a bomb was found concealed in a backpack along the route of a parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the public was divided. Many felt, and complained that mainstream media played down the attempted bombing because race was a factor.

This complaint was echoed when Kevin William Harpham, an alleged Neo-Nazi was finally arrested just a few weeks ago; many saying the media was again shying away from covering the story in-depth to avoid bringing attention to racial hatred in so-called “post-racial” America.

The National NAACP and its President and CEO Ben Jealous made a rare appearance in the Pacific Northwest over the weekend, when they took to the streets in Spokane.  That’s right, Spokane.

The organization announced it would march on Spokane a day before the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination to quote: “demand justice and defend peace, freedom, civil and human rights in an environment where it would appear that excessive racial hatred and discontinuity still exits,” end quote.

It’s no secret Eastern Washington is more rural and conservative than Western Washington. Richard Butler, former leader of the White supremest group the Aryan Nations once anointed the area the so-called new white homeland. Butler died in 2004. His notorious Idaho compound was sold after Butler lost a lawsuit filed by a mother and son who were assaulted and harassed by members of the Aryan Nations.

Nevertheless, the rural Pacific Northwest has been home to active, public hate groups in the past. Minorities in Eastern Washington say they live in an environment of covert, systemic racism, particularly against Latinos.

They point to residents like Shaun Winkler who moved to the area from Pennsylvania to lead a chapter of the KKK, which has about a dozen members.

Turnout for the weekend march was low, with just about 300 people.  Some residents were disappointed more of their neighbors weren’t there to take a stand.  But many in Spokane didn’t appreciate being singled out by the NAACP and didn’t want anything to do with the march.

NAACP President Ben Jealous led the march and rally.  But he wasted a bigger opportunity. During the event, Jealous said he wanted people to quote, “focus on the urgent need for a conversation about racism,” end quote.

Here’s the thing- as a so-called leader, Jealous failed to lead a conversation about racism.  Why would he be satisfied with just calling attention to the need for a conversation?

Marches and rallies have their place.  But the issue of racism, if we’re trying to further the conversation, we need to actually have the conversation.  Why was there no townhall, no training opportunities for people who want and need the tools to tackle racism in our everyday lives?

It makes the march and rally seem a bit disingenuous.  In terms of race and racism, we’ve come a long way in this country.

Things have progressed as much as they’ve become more complicated.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Charlie Smith permalink
    April 5, 2011 10:51 am

    I just don’t get it. Why come to Spokane if not to talk about the elephant in the room?

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