- After drawing the ire of the NAACP for challenging their resolution against alleged Tea Party racism, Breitbart’s Big Government set off the blogosphere with video of Shirley Sherrod, a government official speaking at an NAACP-sponsored event, drawing cheers and laughter from her audience while recounting a time when she denied help to a white farmer solely because of his race. While Ms. Sherrod went on to make a point about looking past racial differences, these questions remain: why did no one speak up? Why was there only positive feedback from the audience at this point in the story?
For which group is there more evidence of members assenting to racist comments: the Tea Party or the NAACP?
For 41 years, the NAACP has awarded “Image” awards to black entertainers who achieve excellence in the arts. Despite its rightful role in celebrating the accomplishments of people of color in the arts, the awards show has also been beset by controversy. Several nominees and winners of awards have engaged in openly racist behavior. For example, Jamie Foxx, a winner of multiple NAACP Image awards, called Miley Cyrus a “little white bitch” who should “catch chlamydia on a bicycle seat.” The NAACP has yet to comment on Foxx’s remarks. Going beyond hatred for one white person, rapper Ice Cube released a song in 1993 titled “Enemy,” with lyrics that state:
- [Referring to Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech]
You gonna grow old holdin’ crackers’ hands
Before you hold each others’ hands?
You gonna walk with your enemy
Before you learn to walk with one another?
How sick can you be? …
Please don’t [shoot] til you see the whites of his eyes,
The whites of his skin, the whites of his lies.
Two years later, Ice Cube was nominated for an Image award for his role in the film Higher Learning.
His other songs are reprehensible as well. “No Vaseline” makes derogatory statements about Jews, but the actual focus of the song revolves around anally raping and shooting/lynching his former N.W.A. colleagues. “Black Korea” is unabashedly racist against Asian-Americans. After peppering the song with slurs (”Oriential one-penny counting motherfuckers,” “little Chinese motherfucker,” “your chop suey ass”), Mr. Cube says, “So pay respect to the black fist/ Or we’ll burn your store right down to a crisp.” Sounds a little too close for comfort to the racially incendiary art of another Image award winner. No NAACP statement has ever been made condemning his endorsement of racially motivated violence.
And for these artists, the racially insensitive expressions are not limited to lyrics themselves. In the music video for “Run This Town,” a collaboration between Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Rihanna (all three are Image winners & nominees), the artists lead a flame-engulfed riot, dressed in outfits similar to groups that promote racially motivated violence: the PLO (keffiyehs), the KKK (pointed hoods—but they’re black!), and the Black Panthers (plain, all-black shirt & pants with black beret—but, of course, this could just be a reference to beatniks, right?).
And, to top it all off, this past year the NAACP gave an Image award to Van Jones, the former Green Jobs Czar who casually singled out “white polluters,” stereotyped that “only white suburban kids shoot up schools,” and decried Israel’s “occupation” of Israel. Benjamin Jealous gave Jones the NAACP President’s Award at the 41st annual Image Awards. “Van Jones is an American treasure,” he reasoned.
This last April 15th, a small movement of agent provocateurs mobilized to try and embarrass Tea Partiers at nationwide protests. In several locations, individuals espousing white supremacy or other hateful sentiments were booed and forced away from the crowd. Whether these people were leftists trying to forge some evidence for the “Tea Partiers are Racist” meme or genuine racists trying to piggyback off the Tea Party’s popularity, the overwhelming majority of Tea Party members showed that racism has no place in their movement.
Compare this with the NAACP’s reaction to clear racism in both the political and entertainment world. Ms. Sherrod’s remarks, before revealing her change of heart, were greeted by her audience with murmurs of approval, chuckles, and absolutely no objections. Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s audience has been a tad more enthusiastic in response to his hateful comments, with no rebuke from Mr. Jealous’ organization.
The NAACP has nominated the aforementioned artists for Image awards, given them the prizes—sometimes more than once—and never once condemned their openly hateful speech. At the very least, even if the opportunity to deny an artist a nomination has passed, the organization could issue a statement saying that such behavior is not appropriate for those who have been honored with Image awards.
The NAACP ought to hold those it designates as role models for the black community to higher standards than this. If it continues to ignore the propagation of racially incendiary and violent expression, the group has no leg to stand on when condemning the Tea Party.