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R. Reese, Cal Poly Pomona, Political Science, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, July 23, 2006

The NAACP Forgives Bush

After declining invitations to speak for the past five years, earlier this week, President George W. Bush spoke at the NAACP's annual banquet. The NAACP is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the U.S. From the anti-lynching campaigns to the efforts to desegregate public schools, I grew up being proud of the noble mission of this organization. However, when I saw footage of the President speaking to this ostensibly conscious black audience, my emotions were stuck somewhere between embarrassment and disappointment. What made me embarrassed was how the President joked with the audience and they laughed. They applauded his meticulously crafted words. I immediately wondered how this audience could be in a jocular mood with a President whose approval rating among blacks is in the mid teens.

Did this audience forget that this was the same person who was happily strumming a guitar while the victims of Hurricane Katrina were desperately fighting for survival? They were applauding a person, who, instead of galvanizing and deploying every resource available to assist the victims of Katrina took an extraordinarily long time to make consequential leadership decisions. They laughed with a person who, under false pretenses, sent their sons and daughters into Iraq under the banner of patriotism to get maimed, killed, and/or psychologically scarred for life. The NAACP warmly embraced a person who has routinely abused civil liberties--a president that some critics say should be impeached while others say should be tried for war crimes. How could an organization that fights for the rights of the underprivileged energetically embrace a person who fiercely fights to protect the privileged elite?

The first question that must be addressed is why the NAACP was so eager to get a widely unpopular president to speak at their annual banquet? Is this organization so starved for attention that they needed the validation of one of the most divisive and unpopular figures in the world? There use to be a time when the NAACP had a clear identity--a clear purpose of their mission. Tragically, those days are gone. Today, the organization's main objective appears to be hosting celebratory galas and high profile events. This Bush speaking episode is emblematic of an organization that has lost its identity and its soul. Just like the child who clamors for the attention and validation of an abusive parent, the NAACP reached out to the President.

When I grew up in McDonough, GA I was told by my Mississippi-born father and my Alabama-born mother that black people were the most forgiving people in the world--that blacks would eventually forgive others for any type of egregious action against them. Over the years, I have found this to be true. One can find evidence of this phenomenon in black churches. During election time black churches will allow politicians who have shown absolutely no compassion for the black community to stand at the podium of the pulpit and promise compassion to its members. Black churchgoers routinely give these imposters the traditional “amens,” “hallelujahs,” and “praise the Lords” while they are speaking. As a kid, I was perplexed at how white politicians only came to my church during election time. I was also confused by how warmly "all" of the politicians were greeted. I know now that forgiveness is a distinct characteristic of the African American community; it is a strength and a weakness. Forgiveness for sincere contriteness is appropriate at all times. However, forgiveness without accountability is problematic at all times.

The President must have scratched his head when he received his most recent invitation to speak--trying to figure out what he had done for blacks in his two administrations that would warrant such a high honor. The NAACP allowed the President to speak at their annual banquet without holding him accountable for six years of negligence in the black community; they tacitly forgave him. Shame on the NAACP.