AP, February 3, 2009
The NAACP’s new leader intends to hold President Barack Obama accountable for his promises about civil rights, regardless of Obama’s status as the first black occupant of the White House.
“The president being black gives us no advantage,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in an interview with The Associated Press, adding that Obama’s background as a community organizer and civil rights lawyer may make him more receptive to the NAACP’s agenda.
Jealous said he expects “the traditional relationship” that presidents have had with the NAACP: “We will be the people at the end of the day who help make him do what he knows he should do. We will help create the room for (Obama) to fulfill, I think, his own aspirations for his presidency.”
“If he aspires to be the next Abraham Lincoln, I aspire to be his Frederick Douglass,” Jealous said, referring to the slave-turned-abolitionist who pressed a cautious Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
100th anniversary approaches
As the NAACP prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary on Feb. 12, Jealous outlined several issues for Obama to address during his first year in office: ensuring fair distribution of federal bailout funds, programs and contracts; double-digit black unemployment; lenders pushing minorities with good credit into subprime mortgages; reducing the disparity between unsolved homicides in minority and white communities; and ensuring that minority children have access to good schools.
The NAACP also has prepared a list of judges, from the federal down to the local level, that it wants considered when vacancies are filled.
For example, Jealous said, when the Supreme Court issued its landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down segregation in public schools, the goal was access to educational equality. “Same schools are a civil right,” Jealous said. “The aspiration of the case was being able to go to the same GOOD school . . . that good schools are a human right. . . .”
Hasn’t met yet with Obama
Today’s NAACP members are not satisfied with simply having a black president, he said. “What they want to know is, ‘What problem in my life will he be solving? Dad’s out of work, Mom’s not getting paid enough, the kids’ school is an embarrassment. What is he doing for me?'”