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Question of the Day

Monday, Apr 2, 2007

A Sun-Times article today asks a question:

But are the Urban League, the NAACP and Rainbow /PUSH — venerable foot soldiers in the decades-old battle for racial justice — still relevant?

Rev. Jesse Jackson responds as expected:

“It’s an insulting question,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson retorted. “It doesn’t reflect an analysis of what’s happening. Does voter registration matter? Does inequity in education matter? Of course it does.

The article continues…

Confrontation used to be the weapon of choice to effect change. It was protests, press conferences and picket lines. Today, it’s negotiations and bridge-building. And when you talk to folks on the street, most feel disconnected to entities they once saw as champions.

Question: To what degree are civil rights groups relevant in politics today? Should they change course?

- Posted by Paul Richardson        


24 Comments
  1. - If It Walks Like a Duck... - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 7:54 am:

    I think all of our civil rights are in jeopardy. Let’s all join together to protect what little rights we have left. Let’s quit thinking ME and try WE, as in “We the People…”


  2. - Way Northsider - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 7:54 am:

    They are relevant because the issues are still with us. They may have to, or already have, change tactics. They don’t need to change course.


  3. - Justice - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 8:17 am:

    Most of these organizations of old have lost their ability to effect change, as they are simply in it for themselves. They have become a business rather than a cause. They are championing themselves rather than those sorely needing the voice of reason and hope. It’s more about tax shelters than shelters for the poor. It is now big business, limousines, air travel, and selected high profile events. The trench fighters of old are dead, and those inheriting the cause are fat, rich, and lazy. They have become ineffective and are doing everything they can to maintain celebrity status, while leaving those most in need to fend for themselves. History will likely not remember them other than a footnote of how they let themselves, and the cause, down. New leaders will emerge and not from within the ranks of the fat cats, but from below, out of the ranks of the poor.


  4. - Levois - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 8:57 am:

    It may just be time for a new generation to take over. Many civil rights organizations nationally may have something of a 1960s mentality. The 60s are over and it’s time for new tactics, new ideas, and fresh blood. There will always be a need for Civil Rights orgs.


  5. - Milorad - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 9:05 am:

    “Does voter registration matter?”
    Who is being denied the right to vote? Jessie Hi-Jackson is trapped in the amber of the 50’s. Better yet these kind of ideas allow him to continue to shakedown large corporations.


  6. - Fan of the Game - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 9:06 am:

    The time for the old-guard civil rights organizations seems to have passed. At issue was standing on “even ground” with whites so blacks could compete freely for jobs and opportunities. That has largely happened (there will always be pockets of resistance), but the old organizations continue to play the victim card and push for entitlements instead of providing blacks with information and resources to help them succeed individually.

    I agree with Levois; there will always be a need for civil rights organizations, but the focus needs to change from one of group victimhood to one of individual empowerment.


  7. - VanillaMan - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 9:20 am:

    I think these groups are so irrelevant, the questions about their future is irrelevant too.

    They have allowed themselves to become coopted by the Democratic Party sometime 45 years ago, and these groups are nothing but Democratic Party satellites today.

    All the major accomplishments made for African Americans over the past 20 years has been due to the political party in power. That has not been the Democratic Party. So, for 20 years we have been seeing the Republican Party catering to African Americans, crafting social policies, appointing African Americans to the highest levels of governments.

    Yet these groups continue to wallow in the Democratic Party and shill for the Democratic Party. You do not see these groups celebrating African American accomplishments if the wrong political party would also be getting credit.

    They have a choice. They can continue to be Democratic party hacks or they can disregard either political party, playing one off the other, and gaining rights and opening doors for African Americans, regardless of labels.

    Just as the Democratic Party continues to show complete disregard to reality and continues to lose relevance outside US cities, civil rights groups that have glued themselves to the Democrats will continue to lose relevance too.


  8. - Truthful James - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 10:04 am:

    The major problem remains. How do we raise up the underclass, give them hope, skills, the opportunity for interclass mobility.

    That demands keeping a sharp eye on the education system and its failings and successes and a sharper gaze on the true effect of illegal aliens on their constituency.

    When they became co-opted by the Democrat Party
    they gave their people to persons who had the objective of maintaining their political base with limited opportunity except for the favored few.

    Subsistence comes from adoring the status quo, success from the impetus of a strong family structure. The saddest part of my day is reading about the deaths of children who appear to have family backing and were on the path to knowledge.

    No society can afford that.


  9. - Squideshi - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 10:16 am:

    I agree that these organizations have been, and continue to be, co-opted into the Democratic Party. This is evidenced by the fact that so many of them refuse to endorse candidates of other political parties, even parties with stronger platforms in support of their key issues, like the Green Party.


  10. - Honest Abe - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 10:55 am:

    The old time civil right groups and their leaders have failed. It is time for new and more effective leaders. The Reverend Jackson has converted his activism into a livelihood for himself. He and his family have profited handsomely from their shakedowns, but the poverty of the urban poor remains unchanged.


  11. - RickMonday - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 10:55 am:

    The poor and downtrodden have voted democratic for 50 years. Guess what, they are still poor and downtrodden, and yet their so called leaders get rich. I guess some animals are just more equal than others.


  12. - i d - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 10:56 am:

    Today’s problems are more class issues than race issues. Education is the only way to change things. Teachers and schools are cheaper than guards and prisons. How do we break the cycle of children having children and no parental responsibility…education. We need more being done in the first six grades to educate and steer children towards a hopeful life full of pride for themselves and for their accomplishments. Higher education is wonderful but not on the radar for those that only look forward to a life of hopelessness. Look towards more funding for elementary class space and teachers; the children reached at that age will be able to help themselves and others as they grow older. And that is why the civil rights system is failing. They are talking jobs when they should be talking early education and mentoring. Oh, that the country had a thousand Allan Woodsons to lead the way.


  13. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 11:11 am:

    How much money did Jackson or Rainbow/PUSH make for the radio ad Jackson did telling how it would be great if ComEd raised electric rates?


  14. - So-Called "Austin Mayor" - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 11:30 am:

    “To what degree are civil rights groups relevant in politics today?”

    I think that the Urban League, the NAACP and Rainbow/PUSH are no less relevant to Illinois politics than the Illinois Republican party — You’ll have to decide for yourself how relevant that is.

    – SCAM


  15. - Mr. Ethics - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 12:47 pm:

    SCAM is also a must book to read on this topic by the Rev. Jesse Peterson


  16. - Levois - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 2:08 pm:

    That was a great book but unfortunately for all the good things he said in that book, I don’t particularly care for the messenger anymore. That’s not to say don’t read the book however.


  17. - Underdog - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 3:49 pm:

    The difference is that in 1960, most people would have said that a systemic barrier that created a result that disproportionately affected one race was a racial problem. Now, thanks to opposition that is a lot savvier than Bull Conner, that is much less the case. People have forgotten that they weren’t just fighting overt segregation, but “colorblind” laws that had hugely negative impacts on African Americans.

    In 1965: Everyone can vote. Of course there are poll taxes and literacy tests. The fact that it results in blacks voting a lot less than whites is just coincidence. Did anyone buy that?

    In 2007: Anyone can get a good education. Of course, since education is paid for with property taxes, districts with blacks don’t get nearly the same kind of money – or the same kind of education – as whites. But that’s just a coincidence. Now, do people buy this?

    The civil rights movement won in the 1960’s because it shamed the white majority into playing by the rules that white America set – that everyone gets an equal opportunity. You can recreate that in 2007, but not if the major advocacy groups are focused on “individual empowerment.”

    Groups like A+ Illinois are making great headway on education by framing it as an equal opportunity issue. Imagine how much more strength that campaign would have if the NAACP went back to its legal advocacy roots and sued Illinois for breaking its commitment to fund 50% of education costs. Or if the Urban League stopped fronting for ComEd and Wal-Mart and published an Illinois version of its Equality Index that highlighted how unequal our education system is.

    Those groups never were the strength behind the street protests – that was mostly the SCLC and SNCC – and they don’t need to be now. They just need to take a deep breath and get back into the fight.


  18. - Truthful James - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 4:51 pm:

    If you look carefully at the Education problem you will see that the performance variable is related to the family structure, the willingness of the family to sacrifice (if necessary) for the sake of the children, the respect of the children for their parents and their willingness to sacrifice other activities to excel in school.

    This is the model for the Asian immigrants now, just as it was for Polish, German and Jewish immigrants in an earlier day. How else to explain the results. Certainly not family income and certainly not the income of the District.

    There is in these peoples the innate belief in the American dream of interclass mobility. The reliance on family pulling together to use every resource goes a long way to explaining their predominance at the top of the school lists.

    The families who moved from the sharecropping fields in the south to the industrial jobs in the north had this belief in education as the way out and up. In the 1950s and 1960s the industrial jobs left, the people stayed and the politicians grabbed them by the throat, using the system to maintain political power. The welfare laws encouraged the breakdown of the family structure.

    Those of us that remember the Contract Buyers scandal, real estate shenanigans which used no money down FHA 222 programs tore hope from the hearts of many. (We are seeing the outlines of a Foreclosure Scandal now.)

    Schools deteriorated. Teachers with ability and seniority opted out of teaching in dangerous schools. Control of the classroom which had been maintained by the teachers and enforced by the parents became a serious problem. Time in its cycle saw the passing of the original migrants from the south. Their children aged and are the grandparents of today. They too are leaving us. The immediate parents have been undereducated. Early school leavers or not they lack the motivation and sometimes the ability to prepare their children for school.

    Many parents cry out for charter school, for choice and vouchers. Are they out of touch with reality? I think not They see a milieu and a classroom which are truly unreal. Theirs are true demands for equal opportunity as something more than the public school classrooms provide.

    Can it be done within the framework of current funding levels? I think so. I see no voucher program which provides more money than the average cost of education in the Districts.

    Which is better for the student, his family and the country, the opportunity for a better education at no greater cost to the people, or a trip in steerage class on the Titanic in the vain attempt to keep the union intact?


  19. - Pat Hickey - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 5:25 pm:

    100% on the Money, truthful - as per usual.!


  20. - Underdog - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 6:51 pm:

    My point is that there have always been laws or systems that inherently harmed or helped 1 group of people. In the past, people called that racism. When you have Alabama police setting the dogs loose on children, people make an easy connection between that and systemic racism like a poll tax. It’s much more challenging to tackle the systemic racism when there isn’t a villain who is obviously racist behind it. To stay relevant, the civil rights groups need to figure out ways to do it.

    I used education funding as an example where they could (a) draw a clear contrast between the resources that white and minority children get (b) draw a clear contrast between the educational results for white and minority children, and (c) have a major impact by staying within their organization’s traditional legal/advocacy roles, as opposed to “changing course.” People aren’t going to say the Illinios State Board of Education Superintendent is racist, but you could make a strong case that a system that funds the education of blacks and Latinos less than whites is racist.

    As for education, money has an impact on educational quality. All praise to the schools doing more with less - they exist and it would be nice if the horrific bureaucracy of the Chicago Public Schools would learn a lesson or two from them - but family structure can’t reduce class sizes, buy new books, higher more competent teachers, stay up to date on technology or keep your art and music programs. For that you need money.


  21. - Wumpus - Monday, Apr 2, 07 @ 9:19 pm:

    Their job is done, they helped provide a 90% Democratic turnout for black voters. The leadership is corrupt, but they thiss instil fear in the white establishment.


  22. - Keep at it! - Tuesday, Apr 3, 07 @ 6:01 am:

    Organizations can be relevant, they just need to evolve with the times. A good example is a Latino Chicago group like UNO, United Neighborhood Organization, which develops leaders from young hispanic professionals, as well as manages charter schools. According to a Chicago Reporter article, they seem to take a more conservative bent to community organizing, continue to have a large following and have the respect of the powers that be.


  23. - Truthful James - Tuesday, Apr 3, 07 @ 7:41 am:

    We certainly agree that we must hire more competent teachers. But that is not going to happen within the union monopoly. Instead, we continue to pay underqualified teachers more and give them end of career super-raises.


  24. - Pat Hickey - Tuesday, Apr 3, 07 @ 11:43 am:

    ‘It’s much more challenging to tackle the systemic racism when there isn’t a villain who is obviously racist behind it.’

    The challenge of systemic racism without racists?
    Now, that is a challenge.

    Can there be a Zoo without animals - or is merely the idea that there might animals systemic zooism/.

    This is the nature of race relations today. Race matters even if there is nothing going on.

    The knuckleheads like Dyson and others who use race as a personal cottage industry ( books, tapes, DVDs, tours, & etc.) have devalued real racial justice issues - like jobs, housing, health and qulaity of life.


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