(FinalCall.com) – W.E.B. Du Bois, the gifted Black intellectual, made a prophetic statement when he noted in 1903 that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” Du Bois, who made the observation in “The Souls of Black Folk,” saw challenges and contradictions in America and went on to help found the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People, as part of an attempt to overcome those challenges and to resolve those contradictions.
On the eve of its 100th anniversary and with a new young leader at the helm, the NAACP and Black America face the daunting racial prospect that Du Bois observed in the 20th century, and it remains the 21st century.
The problem in America remains the problem of the color-line and where it is drawn determines how long you live, where you live, and the quality of life you enjoy while you are here. Black unemployment is still usually double that of Whites, Whites on average earn one-third more than Blacks, Blacks remain over incarcerated, under-educated and too many still struggle to eke out a day to day existence. But even among the Black middle class, the Black-White gaps exists: Blacks trail Whites in wealth accumulation and even Blacks with high incomes were less likely to get home loans, according to a USA Today study, and Black health status is still worse than Whites even when income and access to doctors are adjusted for.
The challenges are awesome and the NAACP has stood against the tide of racial discrimination and racial attacks for many, many years. But where will the venerable civil rights group go from here? It has chosen a new young leader, Benjamin Todd Jealous, and says organizationally things are getting better and the group itself is stronger.
We wish the NAACP well and hope that the organization will continue to grow in strength and influence, because the fight for freedom truly needs freedom fighters. Freedom also needs to be better defined and not be limited to discussions of civil rights, jobs and public accommodations.
True freedom includes the right to self-determination, which means Black America must stand up strongly and support the nearly 100 year old organization. Those who have benefited from and will still benefit from the NAACP should support the organization. Though philanthropy can be a good thing, we must give the NAACP a strong base of independent financial support that can support an independent agenda for our people. History has shown that benevolent White benefactors will cut the purse strings if a cause, a leader, a campaign, a partnership, or idea seems too radical.
Given the problems of AIDS, Black fratricidal violence, poverty, failing education and the myriad of other social ills, it would appear that a radical assault on these challenges is needed and is needed now. The spirit of Black youth is a radical one, not a spirit of wanton destruction, but an abiding spirit in need of direction that longs to be free of White control and oppression that has dominated Blacks since our feet first touched the shores of the western hemisphere.
Meeting these challenges means having an understanding of the importance of a Black united front and the gifts that each Black organization and leader brings to the table. The problems Black America faces are too massive for a single organization to tackle alone. We need the collective intellectual, financial, physical and spiritual power our entire community. We must work across geographic, fraternal, political and religious lines to save ourselves. We don’t have the luxury of disunity or rejecting one another to the delight of the children of our former slave masters.
This call for a Black United Front has been the clarion call of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. It was seen in the Million Man March and has resulted in the Millions More Movement as a vehicle for operational unity.
Given that no one is coming to save us and no outsider is going to deliver us, we must stand up together and meet these new challenges understanding that the time calls for us to exert greater efforts on our own behalf. That doesn’t mean avoiding the challenge of the political, social and economic forces that would deprive us of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It means looking inward and making the most of the resources and power that we have to make change.
An engaged and active Black community sacrificing on its own behalf will only make for a more formidable force for change and justice in American society.
Black America and Black organizations must pursue their own interests and desires for progress. America will automatically benefit if our community becomes stronger and better able to care for itself. All that we can do for ourselves is in accord with the time and what must be done.
Mr. Jealous has been chosen as the new NAACP leader. He follows in the footsteps of those who have gone but will need to make his own way. We hope that he is successful and we must work collectively with him to make the most of this new opportunity.