December 6, 2004

UN & NAACP: Usefulness Outlived

Marc Comtois
According to conservative columnist Armstrong Williams, Kweisi Mfume, who supposedly resigned as CEO of the NAACP, was actually forced out by the organization's Chairman, Julian Bond. Why the rift? According to Williams
The two began feuding after Mfume nominated National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice for his 2003 NAACP Image Award. Furious that Mfume was reaching out to the Bush administration, Bond responded by nominating "Boondocks" cartoonist Aaron McGruder...[who] had ridiculed Rice in his comic strip and later caller her “murderer” for her role in the war in Iraq....

The final tear came after the election. Mfume suggested sending a letter to President Bush, mapping out ways that they could work together to help the community. Bond rejected the idea. Mfume sent the letter anyway. To Bond, this was an unforgivable. A few weeks later, Bond had Mfume voted out. The message was clear: There is no room within the NAACP for intellectual diversity. Just loyal servitude to the Democratic Party.
As originally conceived, the NAACP played a large and important role in the Civil Rights movement. It's original mission accomplished, it has survived as a watchdog organization, albeit one that, as presently constituted, serves as little more than a wing of the Democrat Party. As such, the current NAACP offers no independent vision for the future that can be reasonably disconnected from the mundane political desires of the Democrat Party. While Mfume's outreach to Republicans could be taken as nothing more than political calculation, the resulting political conversation would have fostered an intellectually diverse dialogue that is currently non-existent within the NAACP. Such intellectual diversity would seem to be desirable to an organization based on broadening the spectrum of the American body politic. A political foot in the door with the party in power would also seem to benefit the communities ostensibly served by the NAACP. However, Bond's actions indicate that the organization's current adherence to simplistic demonization and knee-jerk reactions to anything Republican or conservative will continue. Unfortunately, this lack of interest in intellectual diversity is predictable given that the old mantras and polemics have served the current leadership so well. They have maintained their own power at the expense of the best interests of their constituency. Until the average members of the NAACP, or the greater minority community in general, realize that they are being ill-served, they will continue to be led by those who deem power more important than progress.

Similarly, the UN Oil-for-Food program scandal can leave one with no other conclusion than that the United Nations, as presently constituted, has survived beyond its own usefulness. Once seen as an example of democracy writ large, it now serves as a vehicle of power and prestige for men and women who "represent" mostly undemocratic nations. Politically immune from prosecution in both the country of their birth and the country in which they work, they live in a different reality than the rest of the world. They suffer few or no consequences for their actions: they are accountable to none but their own government, whose interests they represent. In such an environment, these self-interests, both personal and political, often win out over any "greater good." The UN has become slave to unending processes in which nothing is ever really solved, though much is discussed. Instead, its members flit about, condemn the U.S. "Empire" and remain comfortably insulated in a cocoon of privilege, forever confirmed of the rightness of their reality by the chattering classes of the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, the Enlightened on the Continent, and their own oppressive governments abroad.

Both organizations, the UN and the NAACP, are operating anachronisms. While the context in which they were founded has changed, the institutions themselves have not altered to meet new challenges. The original missions of each were praiseworthy, albeit (in the case of the UN) a bit idealistic. With proper leadership, these organizations could update their missions. They could refocus, modify or redefine their goals to better address the needs of the people for whom they claim to represent. Unfortunately, such reform requires strong leadership and intellectual flexibility. The NAACP's adherence to a simplistic "oppressed black" vs. "white oppressor" dichotomy or the U.N.'s upside-down geopolitical worldview where America is an opressive Empire and Saddam Hussein a victim of aggression are evidence of "truths" in need of reexamination. Unfortunately, Julian Bond and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan are too inept, corrupt and power-hungry to steer a new course toward redefined goals. Most importantly, it is not in their best interest to do any such thing. Until they are removed, change is impossible and both organizations will continue to sink and wallow in the mud of irrelevancy.