The press and the NAACP search


To: Journalists and pundits

From: Media Central

Re: NAACP THIS memo is prompted by the news that more than 75 people have applied to replace Benjamin Hooks as executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the speculation that Jesse Jackson is a leading candidate for the job.

Mr. Jackson's interest and the avalanche of applications mean we who control the media must try harder to reinforce the perception that the NAACP and the civil rights leadership are outmoded, old-fashioned, irrelevant and out of touch with black Americans.

Here are some story suggestions which you are free to adapt to your needs. A reminder: Sprinkle your copy with words like venerable, ancient, old and geriatric.

"Rap Stars, not NAACP, Speak for Black Youth!" Your local university or community college probably has an NAACP youth chapter; ignore it and find a kid who will say that Ice-T, Sister Souljah or Kool Moe Dee speaks for him or her. Do not ask whom the student will call if he or she is the victim of discrimination.

"NAACP Out of Touch With Black America!" There are dozens of surveys that show blacks and the NAACP agree on most civil rights-related questions. Avoid these and dwell instead on abortion or the death penalty, issues where blacks are as divided as whites. Your Rolodex should have the names of a half-dozen black Reagan-Bush conservatives. They're always good for a "family values" quotation or a verbal assault on the black leaders their sponsors hoped they'd replace.

NAACP in Disarray Over . . ." Fill in "Jackson bid" or any other timely words or phrases; it doesn't matter. Remember when only two of the group's 2,200 branches and none of its board members supported Clarence Thomas? We were able to convince the public that the organization was split over the nomination, and we can do it again. Trot out those anonymous sources. Interview people who are members of rival groups.

"Only Black Middle Class Helped by NAACP." Be careful here. The last time we went with this we were flooded with complaints from middle-class blacks; frankly, we thought they didn't face discrimination today. Ignore recent court rulings giving millions of dollars to blue-collar and low-skill blacks who have won civil rights suits.

Here's another angle. While the black middle class has grown, black unemployment is still twice as high as it is for whites, and blacks still earn less money than comparable whites. One of those right-wing think tanks will have someone -- white or black -- to argue that it is inappropriate for blacks to seek the type of government assistance that subsidizes farmers.

"Civil Rights Equal Civil Wrongs." This chestnut has been around forever. Here are some arguments used against busing in Montgomery, Ala., in the 1950s that you can rework and use today: Integration robs blacks of racial pride; federal protection against racism makes blacks wards of the state; desegregation upsets race relations.

Remember versions of these from the fight over the 1992 Civil Rights Act? If you look hard enough, you can even find blacks who will argue that affirmative action makes its beneficiaries feel bad! (Warning! Do not ask whether whites who receive preferential treatment feel bad.)

You've got the idea; if you get stuck, call our special toll-free number.

Julian Bond, a former member of the NAACP board of directors, teaches history and politics at the University of Virginia and American University.

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