Generation X-ers are also known as “the colorblind” group. On one hand, Benjamin Todd Jealous, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) national president and CEO said, “considering themselves colorblind is an accomplishment.”
To be judged by one’s character, Jealous explained, is one of the many battles fought by the NAACP over its 101-year history as an organization.
“But what is sad is that between the behaviors of many of our police forces, those in the tea party movement and unfortunately, some of the teachers, our kids will, perhaps harshly, find out just how black they really are,” he said.
Jealous, along with Roslyn M. Brock, the NAACP’s national board of director’s chairperson, served as panelists at the organization’s 6th annual Leadership 500 Town Hall Meeting on May 23.
Moderated by Heart & Soul Magazine’s president, CEO and publisher Edwin V. Avent, discussion topics included education, civil rights and the Generation X group in the black community.
Themed “Building the New Frontline,” the meeting was a part of the NAACP’s four-day Leadership 500 Summit at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood.
Jealous, 37, and Brock, 44, both Generation X-ers, are the youngest in the organization’s history to serve in leadership positions.
“And part of the challenge,” Brock said, “is to get this generation to join.”
Generation X is an important group, Jealous said, “because we are the ones who get to decide whether we will continue the fight [for civil rights] and whether we will review the rights that have not yet been coded into law.
“We are all beneficiaries of the [civil rights] movement,” he continued. “And it’s important that we keep that struggle alive.”
Avent said that through his dialogue with many 20- to 50-year-old African Americans, he noted “there seems to be some disengagement when it comes to civil rights activism.”
The group, Avent said, often “questions the relevance of organizations like the NAACP or the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] of the twenty-first century.”
Brock responded: “But they can certainly find us when they need us.” She added, “If they are not promoted, locked out of purchasing in gated communities; if their child is unfairly placed in a learning disability class or they become victims of racial profiling, they are first in line to call.”
There is no other organization with the infrastructure in place, Brock said, “to address these and other issues in our communities.”
Brock said that the organization‘s priorities are education, health care and economic opportunity.
“If we are serious about creating a legacy in our community, these issues should be on the frontline. Otherwise, there can be no change,” she said.
Brock described education as the “gatekeeper for economic prosperity in our nation.”
Young African-American men, she said, are redlined in terms of their testing scores.
“How well they do will predict the number of prisons and jail cells built across our nation. We are starting to lose them around third or fourth grade, and it’s downhill from there.”
In state after state, Jealous added, “when you look at the graphs [for the black community] over the last 25 years, the number of incarcerations has increased while education levels have gone down.
“We have got to say ‘this is the country we want’ and then push our children in that direction,” he said.
As an organization, Jealous said, the NAACP is moving forward and finding its way back to a clear and fast road toward social progress.
“We have made incredible gains,” he said. “The NAACP’s secret weapon is progress.”
Photo: Benjamin Jealous