Watching the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s annual Image Awards in February, I found myself asking the question I always ask: Why, in an age of integration, do blacks still need our own Oscar-like program to honor “the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts”? Come to think of it, why do we even need the NAACP?
The organization is as anachronistic as colored-only water fountains and white-only bathrooms. Its racial focus perpetuates the evils it claims it wants to eradicate, and its audiovisual rendering of America as “them vs. us” abets the nation’s balkanization.
I don’t mean this as a post-racial diatribe. Racism is not completely dead. But it isn’t the bogeyman it once was, and the NAACP hasn’t recognized African Americans’ new status or 21st-century realities. It’s stuck on permanent replay, seeing the battles of the past in every situation.
“It has been less than forty-five years that all black Americans have exercised their rights as full citizens,” NAACP chairman Julian Bond said recently. “Only my father’s generation stands between [me] and slavery.”
See what I mean? The NAACP is like a favorite elderly relative, telling the same story every time he sees you.
At the very least, it should drop the Image Awards. After all, celebrating one-dimensional characters like those in Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne” isn’t that far from praising the 1950s portrayals of blacks in “Amos n’ Andy,” is it?
Jonetta Rose Barras.