Problem Profiteers

One of the outcomes of last week's NAACP 90th Annual Meeting was a call to mau-mau network executives for not having enough blacks in leading roles in next fall's television shows. Another was Kweisi Mfume's call to sue gun manufacturers. The NAACP director, said, "The time has come for us to look at the proliferation of handguns." Mfume, like the mayors of Philadelphia, New Orleans and Chicago, sees gun manufacturers as responsible for the murder and mayhem in black neighborhoods.

At the turn of the century, Booker T. Washington warned against the agenda of "problem profiteers," proclaiming: "There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs - partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs." Booker T. Washington's warnings apply aptly to people like Jesse Jackson and Kweisi Mfume.

Robert Woodson, director of the Washington-based National Center for Neighborhood Enterprises, points to the increasing gap between the concerns of the civil rights establishment and those of ordinary black citizens for whom they purport to speak in his recent book, "The Triumphs of Joseph." In one survey, 83 percent of blacks said they were in favor of school choice. Yet in a floor vote at the 1993 NAACP convention, delegates passed a resolution opposing school choice. In a Washington Post survey, pollsters asked whether minorities should receive preferential treatment to make up for past discrimination; 77 percent of black leaders said yes, while 77 percent of the black public said no. Black leaders support forced school busing while a majority of blacks disapprove. Only eight percent of blacks see racial integration as an issue of importance. Yet the civil rights establishment continues to pursue their 60s agenda of mandated integration and recompense for past discrimination.

Jesse Jackson and Kweisi Mfume's push to have more blacks in starring roles on television shows is exactly what Bill Raspberry, Washington Post columnist meant when he wrote, "The inner-city poor furnish the statistical base for the proposals, but the benefits go primarily to the already well-off." More blacks on television doesn't do a thing for the major problems of the inner-city blacks such as poor education, crime and female-headed households.

Invoking the names of poor blacks in order to benefit well-off blacks isn't new. In 1990 Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders accused Nike Corporation of exploiting inner-city black youngsters. Among their demands were: more blacks in top management positions, more Nike advertising in black-owned media outlets and more blacks on Nike's board of trustees. This tactic of using poor blacks to provide benefits for their better off brethren is known in retailing as "bait and switch."

Since private and Catholic schools do a far better job of educating blacks, the NAACP could have called for school choice, but that would have offended their members who are public school teachers. They could have called on the Clinton administration to speak out against slavery in Ghana, as featured in a New York Times story (2/7/97), and slavery in the Sudan and Mauritania where an estimated 30,000 blacks are held in bondage, but that might offend Jesse Jackson's Muslim backers.

If there's a bright side to the NAACP, it's that ordinary blacks don't give the organization much attention and financial support. Most of the organization's financing comes from white liberals, mau-maued corporations and foundations.

Walter E. Williams
C32-99
July 16, 1999
Return to Articles Page