Color-Blind

June 10, 1994|By JULIAN BOND

Washington -- Beginning Sunday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will host a National African-American Leadership Summit in Baltimore. Its commendable themes are ''Development and Implementation of Effective Strategies for African-American Economic Development, Youth and Community Empowerment, Moral and Spiritual Renewal.''

Every American, white and black, ought to celebrate and support such an effort.

But the NAACP has invited Louis Farrakhan to the summit. His homophobia, anti-Semitism and retrograde racial separatism should make him an unwelcome guest at an NAACP-sponsored event. The NAACP's invitation to him makes it a partner in his hateful views of white, Jews and homosexuals.

From its founding in 1909, the NAACP has worked for a pluralistic, integrated society. It won the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision which eliminated legal segregation; its members provided the backbone for the nonviolent army that arose in Brown's wake to successfully challenge segregation's morality.

Its staff, leadership and membership have always been interracial, reflecting the hoped-for vision of a color-blind America the NAACP has worked toward for more than three-quarters of a century. Jews and Christians worked for the NAACP and for its goals side by side. No test of sexual preference was ever applied within its ranks. It cannot afford today to give legitimacy to a

figure who stands against the integ- rated world the NAACP has always stood for, or who regularly and hatefully attacks others because of their race or religion.

Anti-Semitism, like racism, is always a grievous moral wrong. It is especially so when it is given sanction by an institution which has drawn its strongest and most dedicated white supporters from American Jewry.

Minister Farrakhan has a positive message of uplift and independence for black Americans. The Nation of Islam from which he springs has an honorable record of reclaiming the lost and discarded in American society.

The late Malcolm X is the most prominent example of a life turned around through the discipline the Nation demands of its members. But nowhere in his autobiography does he record that he was attracted to it because of its attacks on Jews, or that hatred of others was a basis for his moral reformation from a life of crime to a life of service. Black Americans never have improved their lives by denigrating others and will not do so today. There is no historical record or proof of a Jewish conspiracy to impoverish or marginalize blacks.

Minister Farrakhan's message of empowerment and moral and spiritual renewal deserves to be heard, but his hateful homophobia and anti-Semitism shout so loudly they drown him out. If actions speak louder than words, the NAACP's invitation to Minister Farrakhan may condemn its noble history to a shameful oblivion.

Julian Bond served as president of the Atlanta NAACP and on the NAACP national board for 10 years. He is a teacher at The American University and the University of Virginia.

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