As the president of my local NAACP branch, there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t hear or read an accusation that our organization and other civil rights groups are antiquated and out of touch groups beholden to corporate funders and thus no longer able to speak truth to power. As much as I believe venerable organizations like ours and others are yet relevant and needed in the fight against injustice, I find it difficult to debate such criticism when civil rights groups continue to embarrass the African American community and affirm the criticisms of a generation that has lost all respect for them. It is a fact that most civil rights organizations are financially supported by the very entities that are hurting Black communities. It is hard to mobilize against the debilitating effects of the decisions, practices, and policies of banks, alcohol and tobacco, insurance, retail, sports, and entertainment industries when they are paying the bills. This should be a time of serious inflection as younger generations are looking elsewhere for leadership rather than a what they perceive as a bourgeois civil rights community that does not have the capacity to relate to them.
The loyalties of the NAACP, the Urban League, the National Action Network (NAN) and others are constantly called into question over their decisions to either remain quiet on an issue of concern or to back a corporate entity in a manner perceived as questionable. For example, the New York Post reported that civil rights organizations were being paid to remain silent on lack of Black television programming with the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner. The National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) filed a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against Comcast and Time Warner Cable, that included the NAN, the NAACP, and the Urban League as defendants. There is much that civil rights organizations must do to shed the image of being elite social clubs detached from the daily realities of Black life in America.