I am going to be honest. I have been dissatisfied with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for the past few years. This is kind of sad to me, as someone who was on the board when I was in undergrad. But what is more disappointing is that the "nation's, oldest, largest, and most recognized grass-roots based civil rights organization" is just becoming a punchline, or even worse, irrelevant.
Now don't get me wrong, The NAACP has done some great things over the years. They have helped tp advocate for the elimination of the Plessy v. Ferguson. The NAACP did and still tackles issues in voting rights, fair housing and many other things. However, a few years ago when the NAACP decided to take up the issue of minority representation in the media I was left scratching my head. Yes, I see their argument. Minorities are definitely not proportionately represented in tv and fiilm, thus creating a void of work for minority actors and actresses. However, it was what I saw on tv while I was at the gym today that really had me floored.
The New York chapter of the NAACP has decided to now take up the issue of the New York City Soda Ban that was signed into law last year. The law bans the sale of soft drinks over 16 ounces at restaurants and movies in an effort to curb the obesity rates of the city. The NAACP is opposing the law because they say that it may have a negative impact on minority business owners. WHAT?!?!!?
I have several issues with this argument. The first being that it is well known that Coca Cola is a corporate sponsor of the NAACP. In fact if you go to the NAACP website you will find in 2009 the Coca Cola Company gave somewhere in the range $99,999-50,000 to the NAACP (this was the most recent report listed on the website). This isn't a conflict of interest? Is Coca Cola now paying the NAACP to act as a lobbyist? This seems like a slippery slope to me. What's next? Is the NAACP going to protest Beyonce performing at the Superbowl because Pepsi is a rival of Coke?
But here is the bigger problem. Although I understand the concern of Mayor Bloomberg in the fight for obesity, I do wonder if this is an act of the government overreaching (even if I am forever indebted for the nation-wide trend for no smoking indoors) but that is a different argument. However, I applaud the sentiment. Minorities especially minorities of African descent have some of the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in the country. Although I think it is a rather inefficient way to deal with the problem, it is an effort nonetheless. If anything, the NAACP should be supporting the health of its constituents rather than fighting for their right to drink soda. Sure, maybe some businesses will take a hit from not being able to sell, as my friend would say, ginormous cups of soda, but who is going to drink them when they are dead?
Finally I have to ask, are there no other bigger issues out there besides soda? I mean seriously, there were 500 homicides in Chicago last year, and they are on their way to another record setting year. Blacks and Latinos are always among the groups least likely to graduate from high school. This same group are disproportionately represented in prison. How many minorities have given up trying to find jobs and stopped bothering to file for unemployment? Maybe one of these issues should take precedent over the right to drink a big ass soda. I mean honestly, if you want to drink that much soda can't you just buy two?
I have thought about re-joining the NAACP of the past few years upon hearing the praises of current members about the potential of new leadership. But when I hear of stories such as the soda ban fight I re-consider my stance. NAACP I am waiting on you to restore your greatness, until then I will just watch from the sidelines.