I just read Jack Hunter's column on what he labels as "the hypocrisy of the NAACP" in calling for either the cultural growth or the resignation of Charleston County School Board member Nancy Cook.
Mr. Hunter puts Ms. Cook into the same "frustrated white" category as former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker and gratuitously finds room in the black corner of the boat of frustration for Dr. Jeremiah Wright. Mr. Hunter goes on to take the NAACP to task for criticizing Ms. Cook and defending Dr. Wright, even though the NAACP issued no statement of defense whatsoever — I did so personally as his colleague in ministry. Mr. Hunter also speaks his mind as "a middle-class, taxpaying — and yes — white American" who is "forced to subsidize the poor and not-so-poor, who often abuse and misuse the welfare system with reckless abandon."
I appreciate Mr. Hunter's frustration, for I'm also frustrated.
I'm frustrated when my School Board gives a rent-free public school building to affluent parents who are tired of paying private school tuition and want to create a "public/private" charter school, allocates tax dollars to repair the building, and buys "trailer" classrooms for use until the work is done. I'm frustrated when the federal government uses tax dollars to rescue banks that created a foreclosure crisis and then runs into trouble when the crisis comes home to "roost" on their balance sheets. I'm frustrated when the federal government uses tax dollars to bail out corporations that make bad business decisions and gives corporations which share their view of "conservative political correctness" government contracts. I'm frustrated with a state government that goes into the gambling business to entice people of modest means to play a lottery that primarily funds the higher education of the children of the affluent. I'm frustrated by open-mouthed and narrow-minded callers to "talk radio," shows like the one that features the Southern Avenger — people who avoid facing their own faults and failings by ranting and raving about what they see as the faults and failings of others.
The NAACP did not and does not deny Ms. Cook or any citizen the right to free speech. The NAACP does, however, address issues of equity that cross lines of race and class, and that's why we've asked Ms. Cook to either take steps to grow or to resign.
Mr. Rocker was a baseball player whose offensive remarks didn't drive public policy. Dr. Wright's parishioners could simply change churches if they disagreed with his words. Ms. Cook, however, is a member of a school board that sets policy and allocates funds for the educational well-being of all children in our community.
If the "frustration" that led her to advocate forced sterilization and the seizure of children from unwed mothers spills over onto the way that she makes school board decisions, then that's a problem, especially since her disavowal of her words has been half-hearted at best. She could conceivably see schools that serve mothers and children that she views with disdain as less than deserving of good funding and good teachers and cater instead to more "acceptable" families.
Mr. Hunter also accuses the NAACP of making Ms. Cook's remarks racial in nature. He writes, "The NAACP represents the politically correct 'status quo' that's been upset by Cook, because she dared to say something people, particularly white folks, aren't supposed to." Mr. Hunter needs to learn a bit more about the NAACP. Should he choose to take a closer, objective look at the organization, he'd learn why we specifically stated that our concern with Ms. Cook's remarks is not a matter of race. He'd also see that the NAACP welcomes membership by and acts in the interests of people of all colors.
I have no problem whatsoever with Mr. Hunter speaking his piece, even when his words are woefully misinformed. He may be the Southern Avenger, but in the New South, everyone can have their say — even those whose words used to be violently stifled by "southern avengers" who imposed and meanly enforced Jim Crow laws.
The Reverend Joseph A. Darby is first vice president of the Charleston Branch NAACP.