- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

Kweisi Mfume stepped down as CEO and president of the NAACP on Tuesday, saying it was his “honor and privilege to help revive and restore the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.” To help ensure a “smooth transition,” Mr. Mfume will serve as a consultant until July 1.

While Mr. Mfume deserves much credit for turning around a financially troubled institution, his departure begs a question: A smooth transition to where? A Democrat who grew up in Baltimore, Mr. Mfume abandoned certain re-election to Congress to run the NAACP in 1996. At the time, the organization was virtually bankrupt and news of sexual improprieties on the part of his predecessor kept reporters busy. Enter Mr. Mfume and Myrlie Evers-Williams, who became chairman of the board. Together, they restored solvency and credibility.

An honest assessment of Mr. Mfume’s presidency would be incomplete, however, if it fails to mention that, since Julian Bond replaced Mrs. Evers-Williams in 1998 as chairman, the NAACP has seemingly become an auxiliary of the Democratic Party. Shockingly divisive rhetoric from the Bond-Mfume NAACP has been pointedly directed at the Bush White House and congressional Republicans since 2000. Mr. Bush did address the NAACP’s conference that year, but since then, the president has not sat with Mr. Bond or Mr. Mfume, and rightly so.

Unlike the National Urban League, which builds comfortable bridges between black and white America — as well as among the poor, Big Business and Big Labor — the Bond-Mfume civil-rights lobby routinely made uncivil and racially disparaging remarks. In his speech at this year’s NAACP convention, for example, Mr. Bond criticized Mr. Bush for not appearing in person: “No doubt he thinks he’ll take care of colored people by speaking only to our sister organization, the National Urban League.” Mr. Bond’s remarks were true to his usual biased agenda, not bias on the part of Mr. Bush. Indeed, that is why the IRS is probing the nonprofit’s partisan parsing.

The NAACP’s roots are nonpartisan and multiracial, but the organization began drifting away from its concrete and useful purposes during the tenures of Messrs. Bond and Mfume. Mr. Bond’s harsh statements — and they are too numerous to list here —threaten the NAACP’s very legacy absent a clear mission.

We wish Mr. Mfume the best, and hope that whoever fills his shoes also restores integrity and credibility to the NAACP.

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