Does it ever blow you away that after all these many years, folks still underestimate us as Blackfolk?
Sometimes it simply boggles the mind. But, I suppose its one of the very few benefits of institutional racism and white supremacy. It happens generation after generation, time after time. And we always suprise the hell out of America by coming out on top. The fact is, we're not supposed to survive, let alone succeed. We're not supposed to count or get back up. But we always do!
Though I have every confidence the IRS probe into the NAACP is politically motivated, if indeed they're politically inept enough to mess with this venerable civil rights organization, it most certainly will piss off enough Blackfolk for the NAACP to actually become relevant to millions of people who see it as that group I heard my grandparents talk about.
The other reason I think the probe might help the NAACP is if their 501(c)(3) status is actually stripped, maybe they'll morph into a 501(c)(4) or Section 527 organization -- both of which are tax-exempt entities, but neither confers tax-deductible donations to their contributors. By becoming one of these types of entities, the NAACP could commit to greater advocacy in accordance with the IRS code, and remove that bogus veil of impartiality masquerading as non-partisanship. The down-side, of course, is that the NAACP's major corporate and individual donors would not have the benefit of taking tax deductions for the sizeable contributions they would ordinarily or have historically made to the organization.
An influential Black non-profit without white money? That's crazy! Revolutionary is more like it. But the dreaded "R" word has little to no political capital in the hyper-pragmatic Black political mainstream in this post-Civil Rights era of corporate sponsored community building.
But think about it for a sec. Look at the strangle-hold outside money has on so many of our Black institutions -- without such funding many such entities would be dead or dying.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the National Urban League, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. You take away their corporate financing, and what do you have? A bunch of traditionalists who won't know how to keep the lights on because the operating model for these and other related groups is not based on grassroots financing.
Naturally, the folks who've been in the movement far longer than I've even been alive will say cynically that if DuBois waited for Blackfolk to fund the NAACP one hundred years ago, it would never got off the ground or grown to what it's become today. Well, perhaps that's true. But let's honestly ask ourselves what it has become today?
While I learned of its storied past by the accounts of my father's parents who were hard-core integregationists in Louisville, Kentucky and proud, active members of that chapter for decades, what the NAACP -- at least nationally --is something of a semi-revered anachronism.
Look at the anatomy and size of its board of directors and draw your own conclusion about the extent to which it is a nimble, vibrant, or grassroots organization. And while its critics may contend that the NAACP never pretended to be grassroots, if any Black institution truly committed to the advancement of people of African descent receives the overwhelming majority of funding from without, then some large concerns are worth noting.
To what extent and how consistently can an organization speak truth to power when its largest contributors seek to uphold that power? An equally important query is: What is the future of an organization that has all but written off the potential of community-based financial support?
Please do not confuse me for an idealist here. But the question must be raised that if there is a fundamental lack of faith in or commitment to even the possibility that a major Black entity can be supported by its own, how does that ultimately bode for its organizational mission?
To me, the very real and sad reality for the executive leadership of these groups is that as presently operated, they would stand no chance of surviving -- let alone thriving -- without considerable "outside" money (if indeed you agree such qualifiers are valid). So, the ultimate question for these leaders is which is more important, keeping things going as they are -- lavish black-tie event, golf tournament, lavish black-tie event? Or, perhaps -- just maybe, something a bit more gutsy, daring, and in the much older African American tradition that embodies our people's indominable spirit and improvisional prowess to boldly define ourselves and craft our own fate when others are prepared to dig our proverbial grave.
As my late grandfather Murphy always used to chime, "We are an amazing people!" Our self-appointed leaders and institutions need to act accordingly. To not do so will imperil the future and long-term legitimacy of such organizations and simultaneously expedite a changing of the guards, the likes of which our community has not seen in far too long.
It's sad that it may take an IRS probe to be the catalyst of a change that should've happened proactively years ago from among our own ranks.