By NAACP President and CEO Benjamin T. Jealous
One hundred years ago, a small multiracial group of progressive thinkers dared to come together in a tiny New York apartment to share a bold dream: An America free of the racial oppression that sullied the soul of our nation a little over 40 years after slavery. The NAACP was born of that noble vision advanced by such visionary thinkers as Ida B. Wells, Mary White Ovington and W.E.B. Dubois. The new organization, radical for its time, launched a tenacious three decade long struggle to successfully end the horror of lynch mobs. In 1932, we took up the mantle to reverse the destructive, segregating vestiges of Jim Crow, and two decades later, segregation was made illegal. In the 1960’s, a determined effort for economic and political inclusion was initiated that triumphed last year in the election of an African-American president and the most black elected officials since Reconstruction.
The NAACP has always embraced the impossible, fearlessly marching forward at an unwavering pace. Our triumphs have not been ours alone. Ending lynch mobs against African Americans ended the horror for White Catholics, the second largest group of victims. Our fight against discrimination helped all disenfranchised members of our country open locked doors and break through barriers of inequity.
But the journey is not over. Black unemployment is perennially twice that of white Americans. Several studies found that a majority of employers preferred to hire a white criminal than a black man without a criminal record. African American children disproportionately attend segregated, poor quality schools. Mass incarceration is harming far too many people of color when drug treatment and other approaches would have better outcomes. The health disparities in our communities are well-known.
Now as we face our second centennial, we can begin to see the realization of the vision of a new land where all live in safe communities and law enforcement respects and protects our neighborhoods. A land where all children can blossom in a quality school; their potential nurtured and cherished. Where every worker in America has a fair chance for employment, education and advancement. The journey is born anew this year and just as in the past we had the courage to pursue the impossible dream that doubters insisted was illusory , today we will begin again to be fearless as we resolutely move towards a better tomorrow for us all.