SEATTLE—The NAACP’s state conference president has apologized to gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire’s campaign manager, after the president of the Seattle NAACP branch implied that Gregoire’s participation in an all-white sorority 30 years ago was evidence of racism.
“You shouldn’t charge people with being racist without some scientific evidence,” NAACP state leader Oscar Eason said.
Eason wrote a letter of apology to Tim Zenk, Gregoire’s campaign manager. He said the NAACP does not endorse candidates or get involved in partisan politics, “and we apologize for any statements that would suggest otherwise.”
Eason didn’t mention Seattle branch NAACP president Carl Mack by name. But he was responding to “inflammatory” comments made by Mack and others last week at a news conference organized by Mack, Eason said.
Mack and other speakers criticized Gregoire for joining Kappa Delta at the University of Washington in the late 1960s. Gregoire has said she deplored the sorority’s exclusionary policy and worked for change from within. In 1973, after graduating, she traveled to the sorority’s national convention in Virginia and unsuccessfully lobbied to get Kappa Delta to include nonwhites.
Some black leaders have come to Gregoire’s defense, pointing out her record of fairness as attorney general. Her primary opponent, King County Executive Ron Sims, who is black, said last week he doesn’t believe Gregoire is racist.
But Mack accused Gregoire of taking “an oath of white supremacy, for the most part, and exclusion.”
Eason said Mack acted without approval from the NAACP state office. He said the incident is being reviewed by the executive committee of the state conference, which includes Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
Mack was unrepentant, and said he has a right to speak on politics as an NAACP official.
“We didn’t attack her,” he said. “All we did was question her past.”
He called Eason, former president of the Seattle NAACP branch, an “apologist” for those who oppress black people.
“His fear of white folks, of white power, has made him a turncoat,” Mack said. “He has no courage to stand up and do what is right.”
Eason said his reason for writing the letter was to clarify NAACP policy and not to point fingers.