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PORTSIDE  January 2011, Week 3

PORTSIDE January 2011, Week 3

Subject:

Julian Bond Interview on the State of Black America

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Date:

Fri, 21 Jan 2011 21:59:18 -0500

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The Root Interview: Julian Bond on the State of Black
America

By Joe Davidson
January 20, 2011
Published on The Root
http://www.theroot.com/views/root-interview-julian-bond-state-black-america

The civil rights leader-turned-professor assesses
progress toward equality in America and measures the
achievements of President Obama.

For more than 50 years, Julian Bond has been a human
rights and civil rights leader. In 1960 he co-founded
the SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee. Bond spent 20 years in the Georgia
Legislature after first being denied a seat because of
his outspoken views against the Vietnam War. For 11
years, until 2010, he was chairman of the NAACP. He
remains on the organization's board and teaches civil
rights history at American University in Washington and
the University of Virginia.

The Root contributor Joe Davidson spoke with Bond about
the nation's political climate and the role for the
NAACP today. This is an edited transcript of that
conversation.

The Root: What is your assessment of the current
political situation in the United States?

Julian Bond: It's poisonous. The rise of the Tea Party
and their ugliness consolidated a lot of [malignant]
intentions in the political process and gave additional
strength to the right wing or the hard right wing, and
as you see, they helped the Republicans take back [the
House].

TR: How would you assess President Obama's performance?

JB: I think he's done very well. And I don't think the
general public has a good appreciation for what he and
the Democrats have done. Passing health care, no matter
what you think of it, this is a marvelous achievement,
and something that has been tried for years. I think
where he has fallen down is in the failure to explain,
as well as you know he can, what he's doing, what he's
thinking, what he wants the public to do, how he wants
people to understand what he's done. But yet overall, I
think he's done a wonderful job.

TR: Some Congressional Black Caucus members criticize
him for not targeting specific economic-relief programs
to the black community.

JB: I'm with them 100 percent. You don't have to be the
black president to do that. You have to say, here's a
segment of our population that is suffering out of
proportion to its numbers, and they need some special
attention. But the difference [between] being a
congressman and being president is massive. Your
interests are different. Your responsibilities are
different. Your constituencies are different. So I
think members of the caucus need to understand that
difference.

TR: Now that we have the caucus and black people
running major corporations and lots of black elected
officials, what is the role of the NAACP at this period
in history?

JB: It's almost the same role it always has been. The
NAACP is 102 years old right now. And for 102 years,
it's been fighting white supremacy. It's done it in
different ways at different times. Almost all of these
years, it's spent litigating against segregation. It
still does that today, or against discrimination. It's
spent all of these years making sure that barriers to
[voter] registration are removed. It's still doing that
today. So though it's hard to imagine, the role of the
NAACP today is not very different from the role of the
NAACP in 1909, when it was founded.

Of course circumstances are different. Of course this
is a different country. But still, its mission is
almost exactly the same. And to believe that because a
black man is president, or we have a black woman as
head of Xerox [Ursula M. Burns], that we don't need
this organization is a serious mistake.

We always need some kind of watchdog, some kind of
monitor, and that's what the NAACP and these other
civil rights organizations are. They are monitors. They
are watching the country, watching what happens to
people of color, and where people of color are at risk,
these organizations step forward. We'd be a poorer
country if we didn't have them.

TR: You said the mission is the same. How would you
define that mission?

JB: The mission is fighting white supremacy, however it
manifests itself. It manifests itself in different
ways. You're less likely to see [white supremacist]
behavior now than 50 or 100 years ago, but it's still
there, and as long as it's there, you need somebody to
fight it, and that's what the NAACP does.

TR: The NAACP now has the youngest board chairman and
the youngest president in its history. Correct?

JB: Both are true. The second woman chairman of the
board and the youngest [CEO] ever in Roslyn Brock and
Benjamin Jealous.

TR: Is the torch being passed to the younger
generation?

JB: Yes, it is. The fastest segment of membership
growth in the NAACP is college-age young people. At
every board meeting, we charter new branches, and
typically if we charter eight new branches, six of them
are youth chapters or revived youth chapters that are
starting again. If you go to any NAACP convention, you
see these enormous numbers of young people engaged in
the organization, taking leadership positions. We're
the only civil rights organization that reserves a seat
on our board of directors for young people.

TR: We have a black president, and yet right-wing
opposition is more vigorous than it has been in years.
Where do black aspirations fit on this national stage?

JB: Black people's aspirations are American
aspirations. We want to be able to provide safety and
security for our families. We want what everybody
wants. And the fact that we are so frustrated in
achieving it, and a portion of black Americans have yet
to come close to achieving it, is some mark of how
difficult the task has been so far and [how] much more
we yet have to do.

Joe Davidson is a columnist for the Washington Post.

Links:
[1] http://www.theroot.com/user/35209
[2] http://www.naacp.org/pages/roslyn-m.-brock
[3] http://www.naacp.org/pages/benjamin-todd-jealous
[4] http://www.facebook.com/theroot
[5] http://www.twitter.com/theroot247

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