Civil Rights via Business Card
There’s a little story out of Orange County, Florida
– not a big story, but one that says a great deal about the fault
lines in Black politics. The se lines are not new – in fact, they
go back into the mists of time in African American history. Essentially,
the story from Florida raises the question: should African Americans
cheer when an individual Black person enters previously closed doors.
How does that help the rest of us?
A construction businessmen named Derrick Wallace heads the Orange Country,
Florida NAACP. He recently joined the Republican Party. Wallace says
he’s been thinking of switching over for a couple of years, and
finally made the move. Are the GOP’s policies looking more attractive
to Mr. Wallace, these days? Well, that’s not clear. Wallace started
supporting Republicans when he lost a run for mayor of Orlando, in 2003.
But his official move to the GOP was, says Wallace, a “purely
bus iness decision.” In his construction business, Wallace found
that most of the people he dealt with were…Republicans. Ninety
percent of the time, in fact. Wallace credits Republicans with providing
most of the opportunities for his business.
In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, Mr. Wallace doesn’t
mention what the board or membership of his local NAACP chapter thought
about his party changeover. Maybe that’s because, a couple of
years ago, the entire board of the local Republican Party joined the
NAACP. One wonders what kind of political conversations occur at NAACP
meetings in Orange County, Florida these days, with top officials of
a Republican Party that relentlessly steals Black votes sitting there.
But Derrick Wallace sees no contradiction. He thinks the NAACP should
be set up along “business lines,” to be close to structures
of power. That means, close to Republicans. Wallace believes his approach
will win “respect” for his local branch of the civil rights
However, it doesn’t sound to me like Mr. Wallace’s branch
is a civil rights organization at all. It’s an upward mobility
vehicle for Mr. Wallace. When he says he wants the organization to get
“respect” he means he wants himself to get contracts. And
he expects that the Bla ck community of Orange County, Florida will
“respect” him for being so slick, so smart that he managed
to “get those white folks’ money.” And that they will
be happy for him and proud that a Black man moved up in the world.
Now, this is a small story, but like I said, it speaks volumes. The
national NAACP has signed on a businessman as Executive Director. He’s
comfortable in the boardroom, as was corporate lawyer Vernon Jordan,
who used to head the Urban League. Lot’s of Black folks get a
vicarious thrill out of seeing a few of their own in opulent settings.
But the masses of Black people can’t spend vicarious paychecks,
or get vicarious health care, or live in a vicarious house, or cast
a vicarious ballot.
It seems that Mr. Wallace is trying to lead Black people into The Vicarious
Zone. Believe me, nothing good happens there, except to someone else.
For Radio BC, I’m Glen Ford.