Apologies from NAACP are long overdue

July 13, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

IT'S THE apology, stupid.

NAACP board Chairman Julian Bond took to the podium Sunday to address the organization's 96th convention in Milwaukee. Once again, Bond pretended to bemoan President George W. Bush's decision not to address the convention.

Then, once again, Bond proceeded to bash Bush, saying "the president likes to talk the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk" on civil rights.

That's because Bond's definition of "civil rights" flies in the face of the very language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law calls for things to be done without regard to race, color or creed. So do the affirmative action executive orders issued by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Bond believes in the affirmative action that's done with regard to race. That's not affirmative action. That's a racial preference. Bond should just admit it.

Here's something else Bond should admit: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People should apologize to Bush before offering him an invitation to speak at any future conventions.

It's the season to apologize. Members of the U.S. Senate recently apologized for the inaction of their predecessors in passing anti-lynching legislation. Bond made a reference to the apology in his speech when he criticized eight senators who he said "dodged" the apology.

"If a United States senator, in the year 2005, can't apologize for that, what outrage is deserving of an apology?" Bond asked. "And who is deserving of a Senate seat?"

Since Bond insists on apologies from those who committed no offenses on behalf of those who did, he should have no problem with his organization apologizing for that despicable "issue ad" the NAACP National Voter Fund ran during the 2000 presidential election.

Bond surely remembers it: the one with a pickup truck dragging a chain. The voice of victim James Byrd's daughter lamenting Bush's opposition to hate crimes legislation when he was governor of Texas. In 1998, three white men tied Byrd, a black man, to a pickup truck with a chain. Byrd was decapitated after the men dragged him behind the pickup. The incident happened during Bush's term as governor.

Bush's refusal to sign hate crimes legislation, Byrd's daughter said in the ad, was like her father "being killed all over again." Let's assume we should buy the NAACP's claim that the National Voter Fund is a separate organization and that no one in the parent organization had anything to do with the ad. Let's assume it was just an "issue ad" and not the NAACP and the National Voter Fund's weasel-like attempt at endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. Wasn't the line "it was like my father was killed all over again" over the top, inflammatory and demagogic? Shouldn't NAACP leaders not in the National Voter Fund have expressed disapproval? Doesn't it warrant an apology?

Not according to Bond. In a letter to this newspaper, he wrote that "no one has disputed the truth of the ad, but it is obvious that the truth does hurt." Here's another hurtful truth, Mr. Bond. The NAACP and the National Voter Fund were hypocritical on the issue of hate crimes in 2000. And Bond is hypocritical on the issue of apologies in 2005.

Marylanders are still waiting for the NAACP -- which has its national headquarters in Baltimore -- to push for hate crimes prosecution in the deaths of Joel Lee and Yvonne Fountain. Lee, a Korean-American, was killed in Baltimore in the early 1990s. Fountain, a white woman, was raped and fatally beaten in Cambridge a year before the National Voter Fund ran its "issue ad."

According to the FBI, a hate crime is motivated "in whole or in part by a bias." In Lee's case, the defendant's uncle said his nephew admitted that he shot Lee because he "didn't like Asians." In Fountain's case, the Dorchester County state's attorney office also said that race was a factor.

In both cases, black suspects were charged with the killings. In a shocking decision, a city jury acquitted the defendant in the Lee case, and the Court of Special Appeals overturned the conviction of one of the suspects in the Fountain case.

Only months before the National Voter Fund "issue ad" on hate crimes ran, an Asian-American immigrant from Thailand, Sammy Thamavong, was brutally beaten on the streets of East Baltimore. Two black youths who bragged about beating "the Asian man" were charged in the offense. But not with a hate crime. And you can bet no one at either NAACP national headquarters or the local branch pushed for a hate crime prosecution.

But hate crimes prosecutions aren't really necessary, not in this season of apologies. Since Bond feels U.S. senators are obliged to apologize in 2005 for senators of yesteryear, can't he apologize for the NAACP's failure to speak out against hate crimes committed by blacks against whites and Asians?

He can start by apologizing to the families of Joel Lee, Yvonne Fountain and Sammy Thamavong. Then, on behalf of the National Voter Fund, Bond can make that long-overdue apology to the president.

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