The Nation's Pulse

The NAACP: Becoming Mel Gibson, Applauding Shirley Sherrod

Image and reality clash: from Christian Adams to Sherrod to Wright and Farrakhan.

By 7.20.10

Send to Kindle

Shirley Sherrod resigns.

Now there's an image. Racism gets the boot.

Here's a cheer for Obama Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. As we have quoted here before from President John F. Kennedy: "Race has no place in American life or law."  Or agriculture.

We will come back to the freshly resigned Shirley Sherrod of the Obama Department of Agriculture momentarily. And also to the recently resigned J. Christian Adams of the Obama Department of Justice. 

But let's start with something simpler.

As humans we love images. They are part of everyday human life. So let's focus on the images we have of not of two momentarily famous resigned bureaucrats but one seriously famous actor and one seriously famous American institution.

Mel Gibson, the movie star, talented actor, director, producer, writer. The all around regular good guy with the long and great marriage to his wonderful wife. Father to multiples of kids.

What a guy. What an image.

Then there's the NAACP -- the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Founded on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Republican President Abraham Lincoln -- February 12, 1909. Blacks and whites together. Jews, Republicans, and Democrats all rallying to the cause of equal rights -- a repeated pledge in Republican Platforms, although not with Democrats. From the legendary black leader W.E.B. DuBois to its first treasurer, John Milholland -- a Republican -- to some of the most prominent Jewish names of the day (Albert Einstein would be a member), the NAACP was well on its way to creating an amazing organization that was determined to fight for a good cause. Along the way it produced civil rights icons like Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall, the latter becoming the first black man to serve as a Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Specifically the NAACP's founding charter stated that cause this way:

To promote equality of rights and to eradicate caste or race prejudice among the citizens of the United States; to advance the interest of colored citizens; to secure for them impartial suffrage; and to increase their opportunities for securing justice in the courts, education for the children, employment according to their ability and complete equality before law.

Mel and the NAACP. What stories. What legends.

And what both now appear to have in common is that each has been living a very sad lie.

Public figures are, like us all, entitled to private lives. As with us all, sometimes -- dare we say most times -- the perfect public face and the imperfect private life do not always match up. There is nothing odd or strange about this, so-called "private citizens" actually not having all that much privacy in the realm that is their actual home turf. Uncle Elmer may not be on the cover of People Magazine but you and the family and a good bit of the church social group know all about the real Uncle Elmer. 

The problem for Mel Gibson was and is that the world of Hollywood celebrity has become his hometown. So when Mel let slip the public mask of the talented actor, producer, director, loyal husband and fab father to multiple kids plus all-around great friend and nice guy -- as he did during his drunken anti-Semitic road rage incident a while back -- word gets out. Long gone are the days where Rock Hudson can be what we would now call a superstar, with a carefully crafted public image as the romantic leading man with a platoon of swooning women in hot pursuit -- while in real life old Rock was a devout gay man who had zero attraction to women. Such duality --whether it comes to sexuality or drugs or alcohol or racism or anti-Semitism -- is today difficult if not impossible to hide from a 24/7 world of tiny cameras and hidden microphones.

Can you say John Edwards?

Can you say Shirley Sherrod, the Obama-appointed Georgia Director of Rural Development in the United States Department of Agriculture?

Be patient. We'll come back to Shirley.

When Mel Gibson got caught spewing that alcohol-fueled anti-Semitic rant when arrested for his DUI, it was just the alcohol, said Mel. And Mel's public, shrugging at the image of ole crazy Martin Riggs, the hyper-active semi-nuts detective who was one of Gibson's more beloved creations, sort of shrugged and moved on. (A character, coincidentally, doubtless loved in part because of his friendship with Rigg's black partner Roger Murtaugh, as played by Danny Glover. Who can forget when they teamed up to humiliate those nasty South African racist bullies in Lethal Weapon 2?)

Now, this time, ugly new tapes. More than one. There are ugly words on those tapes, too, delivered in the unmistakable voice. Racist words. Violent words. Threatening words. The Image of Mel is revealed to be something else completely. If not the Total Reality of Mel -- and in fairness one can only pray that it is not -- what America hears is a troubling something closer to the Actual Reality of Mel. This time, in detail if these tapes are accurate we see an altogether different image from that of the swell and talented guy who is a terrific husband and family man. The Mel his public thought they knew is, it seems, not at all the real Mel.

Now out come the uncomfortable leaks from Hollywood's "industry sources." The racist, anti-Semitic fury we are hearing on these tapes -- that surfaced in that DUI incident back when. Says someone unnamed but in the know to the New York Post: "I don't think this (scandal) comes as any great surprise. The tone and the language (on the tapes) -- people have heard that before." Says another: "People close to him knew the true Mel. They knew he was anti-Semitic. He had a reputation on sets for being sexist."

And right on cue, out from show biz land comes a cogent list of mostly unpublicized past problems. This drinking reputation. That driving violation in another country. This gay slur. That racist remark. More anti-Semitism.

So where does the world such as we know it stand with Mel? Result?

The result is a once pretty good image and a very good career as actor, writer, producer, movie star is -- well -- on life-support if not flat-lining out from this creative life altogether.

The question? Is the NAACP taking notes?

The NAACP, you see, once had a reputation not unlike Mel Gibson pre-turmoil. Where Mel was presented always as the devoted husband of decades and all-around good-guy father of multiple kids, the NAACP was the well-thought of, brave, insightful and honest seeker of justice for American blacks. Where Mel had the courage of his creative convictions whether it was the commercial tale of William Wallace and Scottish freedom or the wild idea of a realistic presentation of The Passion of the Christ, so too was the NAACP winning decades and decades of plaudits. Head held high under the rawest of racist threats -- threats that as often as not were carried out -- it withstood the violence and the ugliness with quiet, graceful persistence. It did all of this while never losing a sense of fairness, impartiality and balance, its hand always open with the tolerance it all too frequently did not receive.

And then, somehow, in some fashion, the NAACP began to go Gibson.

Or, to be more precise, a new reality began to crash through the old image. Now the NAACP -- which so many Jews and whites had a hand in helping to create -- began to reverberate to the tones of the anti-Semite and the racist. 

Take the case of Minister of Islam Louis Farrakhan, whose anti-Semitic sentiments might be the only thing he has in common with Mel Gibson. "Hitler was a great man," said Farrakhan. Jews were "bloodsuckers" said Farrakhan. "The white man is our mortal enemy, and we cannot accept him. I will fight to see that vicious beast go down into the lake of fire prepared for him," said Farrakhan.

So where does Minister Farrakhan show up to speak and receive a tumultuous reception?

Why the NAACP, of course. Where his 1997 appearance has been preserved here on YouTube, replete with the rapturous reception.

Then there was the infamous anti-Bush commercial run by the NAACP National Voter Fund in the closing days of the 2000 campaign. The commercial focused on the horrendous murder of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas. Mr. Byrd was dragged to death by three white supremacists. Two were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, one to life in prison. The problem? Then-Governor George Bush had refused to sign a "hate crimes" bill into law because he believed Texans should be convicted for their actions -- not their thoughts.

So the NAACP National Voter Fund ran their infamous commercial in the closing days of the Bush-Gore campaign effectively accusing Governor Bush of -- yes -- racism. Bush had never shown a shred of racism in his entire career, not to mention had his notable father. Yet the man who would have two black secretaries of state, a Mexican-American attorney general, who appointed all manner of blacks and Hispanics to the most critical offices in American government -- was a racist.

Where was this commercial shown? Not just anywhere. It ran in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Which is to say states that were in play in the close-2000 election. Not to mention that it ran in 18 radio markets along with print ads in black newspapers and the New York Times.

Which is to say the objective was to use the good name of the NAACP to deliberately smear Bush as a racist. For political purposes. To gin up the black vote by making a racist out of George Bush. Nothing racist or unfair there.

Oh, and the NAACP is demanding a moratorium on the death penalty. So what happened to the murderers of James Byrd who got the death penalty? Still drawing the breath James Byrd cannot. The phrase irony doesn't do this justice.

And so another Gibsonian crack in the image of the NAACP appeared.

How can we forget the anti-Semitic and racist ravings of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? And this cheering, stomping reception at an NAACP gathering in Detroit in 2008?

Meanwhile, a check of the campaign contributions of NAACP officers provides yet another glimpse into this once non-partisan organization. President and CEO Benjamin Jealous? Money to Obama and a Democratic Congressional candidate. Chairman Roslyn Brock? Money to Obama and Democratic candidates for House and Senate. Eugene Duffy, the chair of the NAACP Special Contributions Fund? All manner of Democrats from Obama and John Kerry on down the food chain to senators and congressional candidates such as the left-wing Maxine Waters.

Is this a big deal? So these folks exercise their quite American rights to donate money? So what?

So let's get to Shirley Sherrod, the Obama-appointed Georgia Director of Rural Development who is responsible for a $1.2 billion budget of your tax dollars.

Take a look at this video found by our friend Andrew Breitbart over at BigGovernment.com. This is what got Shirley Sherrod booted from her job.

Here's Andrew's column discussing the Shirley Sherrod episode and more. /It's impossible to improve on -- and it was written before Ms. Sherrod departed her post. Bravo.

Ms. Sherrod was the speaker at an NAACP event -- and up until hours ago was an official of the government of the United States. Responsible for a budget of over a billion dollars of your money. She is seen in this video openly bragging that she is using race to make decisions in her job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she has the budget with all that money. And the response from her NAACP audience? Applause.

Applause. Applause for straight out racism coming from the NAACP.

By the way, let's get to Mr. J. Christian Adams. Does the name J. Christian Adams, ex-lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice, still ring a bell? The Mr. Adams who has alleged to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that racism is loose within the Department of Justice -- not Agriculture but Justice -- and that a voting rights prosecution of Black Panthers was ignored because the accusers were white and the defendants black?  The Washington Times now reports that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund appears to have had some as yet undefined-for-sure involvement with the Justice Department and the Panthers case.

Shocker, no? 

Is this not the identical racist philosophy that Ms. Sherrod is busy boasting about from her perch at another government agency -- the Agriculture Department? Using race to deny help to a farmer who happened to be white?

The point, of course, is that when you add the rousing reception for Farrakhan to the Byrd commercial to the vociferous enthusiasm for Jeremiah Wright to the repeated contributions to Democrats to the recent false attacks on the Tea Party (Mr. Breitbart, by the way, is still waiting to pay his $100,000 reward for proof of the charges against the Tea Party stemming from that Washington protest) to the Shirley Sherrod applause to the Washington Times story and the resignation of J. Christian Adams -- what you see is not the image of the NAACP that was once so vivid in the American mind. Even the Thurgood Marshall legend of NAACP lawyer turned first black Justice has taken a hit with the revelation that his judicial philosophy was "do what you think is right and let the law catch up." In other words, Marshall held to the same judicial philosophy that was behind the infamously racist 1857 Dred Scott decision, which tried to write a right to own slaves forever into the Constitution.

As with Mel Gibson -- the reality of the NAACP is not what the image purveyors would have us believe.

When the glossy, historical images of the NAACP are peeled back, what we are seeing is something not just disappointing but terribly sad -- and potentially dangerous.

This is a group that has become what it once opposed.

Whether it is applauding Louis Farrakhan or Jeremiah Wright or Shirley Sherrod -- the latter for openly admitting to using the government to discriminate based on race. Whether its officers fund Maxine Waters or every last candidate on the Democratic Party's increasingly far-left roster of extremists. Whatever else it is now, the NAACP has betrayed its own history.

It is not an organization opposed to racism -- it is, like Mel Gibson, giving every appearance of being, in reality, something else entirely.

And that something is not good.

The real question?

Is the United States government now devoted to promoting racism as appears to be the case with the NAACP -- unless someone like Shirley Sherrod is caught on tape? Caught on tape promoting government racism to applause from the NAACP?

Or caught by a lawyer like Christian Adams, who had the guts to resign his Department of Justice job and blow the whistle on a flat-out refusal to stand for color-blind justice? Something the NAACP was founded to support.

Even Mel Gibson looks better than this.

And that's saying something.

 

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.