Not Sell Outs but…NAACP Should Re-Evaluate Donation and Awards Process

James“The revelation that Mr. Sterling may have made comments in a phone conversation that were reminiscent of an ugly time period in American history that contained elements of segregation and racial discrimination demands that the Los Angeles NAACP intention to honor Mr. Sterling for his lifetime body of work must be withdrawn, and his donation to the Los Angeles NAACP returned.” - Leon Jenkins, President, Los Angeles NAACP on L.A. Clippers owner Don Sterling

by James M .Douglas

How does the NAACP safeguard itself from another Donald Sterling incident? The apparent action taken by the Los Angeles NAACP chapter to separate itself from Sterling’s racist rants puts a mark on the organization and should call for reevaluations nationwide as to how it takes donations or gives awards.

“The group was broadsided and there was no way to prevent that,” said Former Texas State University Chancellor and famed Attorney Dr. James M. Douglas. “However, if they were not aware of all the things, they should not have made him a candidate for a lifetime achievement award.”

Sterling had already been awarded by the NAACP in 2009 before being barred for life by the NBA for making racists comments that shook the league and America like a 10.0 earthquake.  He was scheduled to receive the NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award given by the branch next month. No longer. 

Sterling has a poor history on civil rights and proved to be someone who should not have been honored or considered for a lifetime achievement award with one of the oldest more respected civil rights organizations in American history.

Just years before, the real estate magnate had just paid $2.73 million to settle U.S. government claims that he refused to rent his apartments to Latinos and Blacks in Korea town.

According to community activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson, the NAACP “airbrushed” this away and simply said that Sterling has been a “gem” in giving oodles of tickets away to needy inner city kids and ladling out some cash to charities and sports camps for them.”

However, L.A. NAACP Branch President Leon Jenkins made it clear. “There is a personal, economic and social price that Mr. Sterling must pay for his attempt to turn the clock back on race relations. If these statements are not who Mr. Sterling is, then he should spend the appropriate time necessary proving to the African-American community that these words don’t reflect who he is, or who he wishes to become.”

State NAACP Emeritus Howard Jefferson said he has been working to change the way awards are given here in Texas for over a year well before the Don Sterling incident.

“Texas was setting a standard for the nation well before this situation occurred in Los Angeles,” Jefferson said. “It contains stricter guidelines and screening criteria and we expect it to be the model for many other branches across the country.”

Jefferson said that NAACP across the nation will learn from what happen in Los Angeles and that no one should feel that the organization has moved away from its commitment to fighting for civil rights, freedom and justice.

Critics say the incident casts a dark shadow on the organization’s mission and makes it appear as though it is either selling out cheap or is now weak and cowering for handouts from any contributor it can find to make a deal. Douglas disagrees. 

“Giving back the money was appropriate,” he said. “Taking a visible public stand was the right thing to do.”

He also believes that the media exploited the story instead of allowing the organization to handle its own business appropriately.

“The NAACP does not sell out,” he said. “The White media wants to get attention by finding something negative about Black organizations. If they could make the NAACP look like a group that fights civil rights on one side and then accepts money from racists, then you diminish the power and respect and importance of the NAACP.”

Now the group and national branches try to bounce back from the public exposure of a fellow branch that raises questions and leaves the branches struggling to do some hard self-examinations about these kinds of relationships.

On donations, Douglas pointed out a sad fact that the lions share of support for the NAACP does not come from the Black community.

“People come for help all the time but are unaware of how much it takes to litigate a case,” he said. “Many needing that help are not NAACP members and that means the money has to come from somewhere and most of that money comes from White donors or organizations.”

He also pointed out that the increasing demand for civil rights related cases and costs for them are increasing, but the courts are not reacting favorably now to those cases.

“The climate of the court makes the likelihood of winning a remote chance,” he said. “The courts are very favorable to defeating the civil rights advancements of the past.”

On awards and donations, Douglas said more thorough research is probably in order before making decisions about individuals or organizations.

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