The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), once an organization at the forefront of Black social and political activism in the United States, held a ceremony last week to bury the N-word. The Associated Press reported that the ceremony was a jubilant occasion at Detroit's Cobo Center to Hart Plaza, with Detroit's mayor Kwame Kilpatrick saying "We gather burying all the things that go with the N-word. We have to bury the 'pimps' and the 'hos' that go with it."
Although the ceremony was meant to be symbolic gesture of the self-determination of Black folks in this new era, that symbolism was lost among the NAACP's misdirected targets. On the heels of Don Imus and the controversy swirling around hip hop and masculinity, the NAACP missed a prime opportunity to indict the true culprits of America's obsession with the N-Word: white priviledge and patriarchy.
Jamaal Johnson and Matthew Cooper of the Oakland Tribune reported this week on the mixed reactions around the ceremony. Oakland hip hop artists Boots Riley summed it up best when he said that the public discourse on racism has switched to blaming Black folks:
"At one time, the NAACP assembled in fighting against injustices and oppression," he added. "But now they are focusing on what blacks do to themselves."
"I just think that the African-American elite leadership or talented 10th let Don Imus set their agenda," said Reed. "It makes him the most powerful man in the African-American community — Don Imus. He cleverly switched the whole conversation to hip-hop and black leadership and media went for it."
If the NAACP ever expects to gain a powerful resolve in this generation's struggles against racism, sexism and homophobia, it had better bury its own ideologically conservative attitudes about hip hop.