Editorial: For NAACP, a victory, not an end
When President Barack Obama took office as the nation’s first black chief executive earlier this year, many heralded the moment as the dawning of a “post-racial” age in America.
Around the same time that Obama stood on the capitol steps for his swearing-in, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was beginning a year-long celebration of its 100th anniversary.
The timing, it seemed, was more than fortuitous. The theme for the centennial: “100 years: Bold Dreams ó Big Victories!” And certainly, Obama’s election is a triumph for minorities and the majority of Americans who would like to leave this nation’s racial strife in the haze of history.
A victory, however, does not signal the end of the struggle.Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP board, recalled the signs that said “white” and “colored” at the movie theater and said they were “an easy target for me to aim at. … Today, I don’t see those signs, but I know that these divisions still exist … and it’s more difficult to convince people that there’s a problem.”
And the face of the struggle changes. It’s not just about race anymore. Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, said his greatest obstacle is “the lack of outrage about the ways that young people and working people are routinely mistreated.”
Though made at the beginning of this year, when the NAACP embarked on its centennial, those remarks remain timely as the Rowan-Salisbury Branch of the NAACP commemorates its first 30 years this weekend while facing similar challenges on a local level.
Since forming in 1979 with 300 members, the local chapter has fought battles and claimed victories in the arenas of government, business and education.
Early on, the group petitioned the Salisbury City Council to hire more black officers, and in 1998 its work helped lead to a study that said the city should develop policies to increase minority applicants for the Police Department and encourage minorities to seek training that aids their chances of promotion.
Food Lion agreed in 1984 to hire and promote more blacks and buy from more minority-owned companies after an NAACP boycott.
And the local organization has kept a watchful eye on ó and engaged in several skirmishes with ó Rowan County’s education establishment.
When the Rowan and Salisbury school systems were studying merger in 1985, the NAACP rightly called it a “slap in the face” that the committee overseeing that process included only white members.
In 1993, the local chapter criticized the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education for hiring five white principals and pushed for more black teachers and administrators in the school system. At the time, only one of the system’s 28 principals was black, while a quarter of its students were black.
The school board agreed to change some of its hiring practices to emphasize “gender and racial equity in the administrative ranks.”
And in 1994, the school board created a majority black district to settle a voting rights lawsuit filed by the NAACP.
As Bond and Jealous pointed out, the struggle may be less visible and its face may be changing in Rowan as well as the nation ó in 2006 local NAACP president Dr. Bryant Norman called on the community not to make immigration a racial issue ó but it is the same basic struggle: fairness and equity for all.
The Rowan-Salisbury NAACP should take pride in its work toward that goal during its first three decades. And, even if it’s true that we live in an increasingly post-racial society, plenty of divisions and obstacles remain, so it should be encouraged to continue the struggle for as long as it takes.