And the Nominees Are …

I own and proudly wear a T-shirt that declares, “I Love Black People.” Once when I was wearing it, a white guy told me with an inquisitive inflection at the end of his statement, “You wouldn’t like it if I wore a shirt that said ‘White Power.’ That’s what you’re doing.” While I understood his point, I didn’t and still don’t agree that it’s the same thing. My T-shirt, among other things, is a reminder to me how important it is that we have love for self. It has nothing to do with hatred for others. But recently, I had a fleeting thought: Maybe it’s time to retire the black people shirt. This is all because of the NAACP and their recent Image Awards nominations.

While some people have questioned the 100-year-old organizations’ purpose in these post-racial (and I use that term in jest) times, back in the day in Starkville, Mississippi, when I was growing up, at least, the organization meant something. I heard stories of the NAACP and Dr. Douglas L. Connor, one of the hometown heroes. The NAACP and its members did things. They stood for something. They fought battles that wouldn’t ordinarily be fought. They unsettled dust. Now, of course, there were (and are) crazy members of the organization—one, in particular, long ago proclaimed herself as the voice of the voiceless in the college town. But there’s one of those in every city and every organization. Nonetheless, they made a difference.

The idea of NAACP meetings back then conjured up for me images of people secretly gathered in church basements to find tactical ways to make revolution possible; stoic black people sitting at white-owned lunch counters, drenched in liquid, as they silently protested; nights where friends listened to James Brown whaling “say it loud/I’m black and I’m proud” while they made picket signs to protesting an injustice; and even women, like my aunt, who chose not to march during the protests because “someone had to have lunch waiting for them when they got out of jail.” NAACP meant people with an erect posture and innate sense of pride—people who have come a long way, fortified for the rest of the trek yet left. That was, for a long time now, my image of the NAACP.

That’s clearly not the image the organization sees when it looks itself in the mirror, though, I guess. The evidence: NAACP Image Award nominations for Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” for Outstanding Reality Series and “The Michael Jackson Memorial: Celebrating the Life of Michael Jackson” special for an Outstanding Variety Program.

The Image Awards are, according to the organization, are supposed to recognize the “exemplary works by, for and relevant to people of color in the arts … as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.” Oops. I suppose the managers, publicists and production companies didn’t get this criteria when they submitted these shows for awards. That’s the only way they could have thought a nomination and subsequent award was warranted.

If the organization saw itself the way I did growing up, its leaders couldn’t possibly still take itself seriously after accepting the nominees for an un-reality show about broke housewives who undoubtedly put their weaves and envy-inspiring Christian Loubuiton pumps on credit cards and threaten to fistfight to settle their issues. Next year, will the highest grossing drug dealers be nominated for Outstanding Entrepreneur? And a memorial service? Michael Jackson was the King of Pop; Stevie Wonder brought tears to my eyes with his performance; and Al Sharpton’s inspiring words to MJ’s children made me think that maybe there was nothing strange about my daddy either. But it was a memorial service. Give me a break.

I’m disappointed. These two nominations have single handedly cheapened not only other nominations for people and entities who have offered their communities “exemplary work” and “promote social justice,” but it’s also tainted my memory and image of what the NAACP is. So maybe it’s not the smartest idea to start using my “I Love Black People” T-shirt as a dust rag. Maybe I should wear it more often with hopes that some things can be the way they used to be. And while I’m at it, maybe I’ll get a shirt made that reads, “The NAACP Don’t Advance Me.”

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~ by MsInklination on January 25, 2010.

2 Responses to “And the Nominees Are …”

  1. That is interesting that he would say that about your shirt. I think that goes to prove that when black people love each other and themselves, some white people are intimidated because that’s where we find strength. If your shirt read “I love black people only!” then I could see his point as valid but to say you love something doesn’t mean you hate it’s opposite (unless it’s between God and sin). I do agree however that the NAACP is starkly different from the image and purpose it held years ago. I think once the argument of its relevance came up a couple of years ago, the group unfortunately decided to become a figurehead and increase it’s knowledge and association with popculture that involves black people. That’s a sad sad tale. Maybe they need shirts that read “I love black people” because their actions aren’t quite showing it.

    • Critical thinking is, indeed, just not a reality of today’s world. Inclusion of one doesn’t necessarily mean exclusion of another. People don’t know how to to hold two thoughts at the same time and it’s sad.

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