LOS ANGELES, July 25, 2011—The 2011 NAACP Convention was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, a short drive from my home. Outside of the convention was a competing event. I attended both events.
For those wondering why a white, conservative Republican would attend the NAACP Convention, the answer is very simple. To quote “You must learn” rapper KRS-1 from 1980s rap group Boogie Down Productions, “When one doesn’t know about the other one’s culture, ignorance swoops down like a vulture.”
The NAACP has been accused by conservatives (including myself) as a left-wing front group. Yet I entered the convention with an open mind, which is what reporters are supposed to do. It is absolutely possible that there was plenty of “hidden” occurrences that I never saw by definition alone. I can only analyze what I saw.
This was a fantastic event. The people were kind, friendly, and proud.
The booths were as mainstream and important as at any other convention. Yes there were a couple of destructive left-wing agitiation groups. The SEIU did have their booth. It was empty. Maybe community organizers have gotten lazy, a welcome occurrence indeed. The NEA was there to pretend to care about children.
Yet for those looking for signs of ideological bias among the vendors, it just was not there. The military was heavily represented, with the Army, Marines, and Air Force all having booths. The National Association of Black Veterans was there. Law enforcement booths were everywhere, with the FBI, Department of Justice, and Secret Service talking to people about careers with them. Defense Logistics Analysis did likewise.
The most represented industry was definitely the health and medical industry. Black people in America still have shorter life spans than their white counterparts. The vendors there were not about preaching injustice or crying racism. They wanted to solve problems.
A “wellness center” contained everything from Alcoholics Anonymous to the USC School of Dentistry to the UCLA mobile eye clinic. Kaiser Permanente had their representatives on hand, and Johnson and Johnson had a very large presence. They were offering presentations on “healthy living.”
Black people suffer from heart disease and diabetes in greater rates than Caucasians, and attendees were much more interested in preserving their hearts and bodies than in rabble-rousing. “Life and death” literally could have been altered for the better by some of these vendors.
An interesting irony was that a few feet from the healthy living educational centers was the presence of McDonalds. They were showing how some of their food could be healthy. This may make some laugh, but McDonalds is a major employer in this country. A teenager selling burgers and fries today could one day be a manager and eventually own a franchise.
Religion was less represented than I thought. The Church is still a powerful force in the black community, yet I only saw the Seventh Day Adventists.
The University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School attended. After all, if people want to go to business school, they should shoot for the very best.
Big business was represented fairly. The American Petroleum Institute…yes, big oil…had a booth. The oil and gas industry employs over nine million people. One career where black (and all other) people will have the greatest ticket to prosperity in America is sales. Sales is race neutral. If you can sell, you do well. Metlife was informing people about sales careers in the life insurance industry.
There were plenty of black history displays dating back to the Pilgrims. While President Barack Obama was on display, he was treated as one of many significant figures. One billboard had Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington (a Republican), and Dr. Bernard Harris.
Dr. Harris was the first black man in space.
This was the true value of the historical displays. I learned about Lawnie Taylor, who discovered a way to modify chlorine bleach to use it without damaging cotton. He received two patents for what he called GLEE. Philip Emeagwali was able to take 65,000 computers and link them together to have them calculate millions of data per second.
He was doing this to analyze petroleum fields, and his work is considered a precursor to the Internet.
One author named Brian White is one of several people on an “Empower Me Tour.” He was inspiring crowds while signing his book “Black Carpenter.” He goes around to high schools and colleges and helps provide advice to students on how to prepare for college or the work force. “Black Carpenter” is a metaphor for various careers that have been overlooked in recent decades, from carpenters to plumbers to electricians.
A problem in America is that we do not make stuff anymore. We do not have nearly enough tradespeople such as welders or blacksmiths. These are good paying jobs that too many look down on because they are seen as “blue collar.”
People of all races could learn from Mr. White.
While the booth exhibits were valuable, surely the convention hall with the speakers had to be raving liberal lunatics chanting “Death to Republicans.” I walked in and again was treated overwhelmingly friendly. On the stage was a celebration of a group called ACT-SO, which celebrates students who achieve in everything from the sciences to the humanities to song and dance. The young high school girl I heard on stage was every bit as talented as anything on American Idol.
Could there have been the ideologically slanted politics I keep hearing about? Yes, but I did not see it and I spent plenty of time there. Several thousand NAACP attendees were interested in jobs and healthy living. An elderly woman with a cane smiled as she showed her toddler granddaughter a picture of President Obama. One does not have to be political in either direction to appreciate the pride that comes with seeing struggles and dreams turn into reality.
That young girl could be president one day. That is not liberal or conservative. It is America.
Yet as significant as Barack Obama is to the black community, I saw almost nobody wearing Obama t-shirts. Conversely, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was everywhere. This is not meant to denigrate the president. Yet Mr. Obama could be seen as having benefited from Dr. King’s struggles.
Over four decades after Dr. King’s death, he still holds more power and sway with people of all stripes, even that of American presidents.
Dr. King’s message of inclusion made it all the more surprising at how lacking in diversity the crowd was. I expected to see more Jewish and Latino people there to show solidarity. Communities love to preach “outreach,” but I did not see a single public official. Maybe I missed them. If I were a Jewish or Latino leader, I would have come to this convention.
Outside the convention center was a competing event also with cultural significance. Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson has dedicated his life to helping black Americans. He is not a fan of the NAACP. He is passionate about issues that he feels the NAACP is not addressing, such as 70% of black children being born out of wedlock.
He is ardently pro-life, and finds abortion to be decimating the black community.
The crowd of about 200 people was pretty impressive given how hastily the event was arranged. This crowd was very diverse, with Jews (Rabbi Nachum Shifren for one is a stalwart ally of Reverend Peterson) and Latinos in attendance. Plenty of black conservatives do not agree with the NAACP. Reverend Peterson heads the “Black Tea Party” in Los Angeles, and the Tea Party attendees are concerned with government spending.
The crowd inside the convention hall and the Tea Party attendees were both pleasant and respectful. Yet too many people passing by harassed the Tea Party attendees, with accusations of “racism” tossed most fiercely at the black conservatives.
The leftist anti-Tea Partiers were belligerent. The Tea Partiers stayed calm and reasonable.
Yet while both the NAACP Convention and the Black Tea Party accomplished their objectives, both groups had objectives that were too narrow. I did something that most people did not do. I spent plenty of time in both areas.
What made the black community strong way back when was the vigorous intellectual debate between W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington. The silencing of debate has hurt the black, and my Jewish, community from an intellectual standpoint.
Jessie Lee Peterson should not just be preaching outside to the converted. He should be speaking on the convention floor. He is working on this, and the NAACP would be well served by having him.
NAACP attendees should spend time around conservative organizations. Black conservatives are not “Uncle Times” or “acting white” or “self-loathing blacks.” They are simply people who have a philosphy closer to Booker T. than W.E.B.
As for me, I am still a conservative Republican, and still as pasty white as ever. Yet I also had a socially and culturally enriching experience in Los Angeles far better than somebody who only attended the NAACP Convention or the Black Tea Party rally.
Segregation all but ended with the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln in 1863. By 1954, a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling declared that “separate but equal” would forever cease to exist.
In 2011, it is disappointing that segregation is now being expanded not based on race, but on ideology.
Yet the good news is that the segregation was voluntary and not enforced. Those who chose to hear both groups were free to do so, and some…not enough, but some…did.
If Dr. King’s dream of a society where we are judged on content of character and not skin color is to be realized, several things need to take place going forward.
The NAACP must let what I saw be the accurate reflection. They must stay officially non-partisan. What I saw was spectacular, but I have also seen how Republican officials have been treated at previous conventions. At some point in 2012 the Republicans will have a presidential nominee, and that person most likely will be Caucasian.
The Republican nominee must be invited to address the NAACP Convention. That invitation must be accepted. Otherwise the black community will again face the terrible choices of one party taking them for granted and another giving up on them.
We have to talk to…and listen to…each other. For one thing, we are stuck with each other. For another, it is the right thing to do. When we talk to and listen to each other, we learn and grow.
I am proof of this. I saw it with my own eyes in the form of an NAACP Convention and a Black Tea Party rally that both brought good people who love America into the town square in the heart of Los Angeles.
That is democracy. It is bumpy, but still as beautiful as the handshake shared between political opponents after a debate upon realizing that they are not enemies.
Both events have ended, but the discussions must continue, and they must continue together.
The most liberal member of the NAACP and the conservative Reverend Peterson both know this.
That is the America Dr. King fought and died for.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.” Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. After years of dating liberals, he has finally seen the light and now only dates Republican Jewish women. His family is pleased over this. Republican, Jewish women, you may contact Eric above.
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