Jealous' legacy at the NAACP is far from laudable [Letter]

Benjamin Jealous took over the NAACP five years ago and transformed an institution in disarray into a vital force for social justice in the 21st century.

I strongly disagree with your account on Ben Jealous' legacy as NAACP president, as well as with your reporter's poll of "civil rights leaders" called to vouch for the pick of Cornell William Brooks as Mr. Jealous' successor ("Attorney Cornell Brooks to Lead NAACP," May 18).

Mr. Jealous often embarrassed the NAACP; for example, in contravention of long standing NAACP policy, he backed deliberately separate, homogeneous homerooms for black boys and black girls at an otherwise integrated public high school in Pennsylvania. And his voice was among the loudest and shrillest in demanding the arrest and conviction of George Zimmerman for the, ahem, "murder" of Trayvon Martin. When a jury acquitted Mr. Zimmerman of all charges, Mr. Jealous demanded — without any concern for due process, or double jeopardy, and without a smidgen of evidence of racial bias on Mr. Zimmerman's part — that the Justice Department prosecute Mr. Zimmerman on federal civil rights violation charges. This was on Mr. Jealous' part sheer racial demagoguery, not sober leadership of the nation's once premier civil rights organization. Indeed, while Ben Jealous was favored by left wing zealots, he never was regarded as a faithful guardian of the NAACP's integrationist values and due process moorings.


As for Mr. Brooks — the NAACP board's choice to succeed Mr. Jealous — I've asked prominent civil rights-ers; Mr. Brooks, to us, is a cipher — unknown and untested, hardly a distinguished or likely successor to giants like Roy Wilkins, my mentor, and Thurgood Marshall and Marshall's deputy, Robert L. Carter (who co-argued the Brown v. Board of Education case). Those gents were brilliant and accomplished advocates of sanity on the race question of their and our times, and they were servants of the credo of equal treatment under the law as the bulwark of the American Dream and the touchstone of our democracy.

Michael Meyers, New York


The writer is executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former Assistant National Director of the NAACP.


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