Project 21 Member Rebukes Washington Post for Implying Only Liberals Promote Civil Rights

It should be the goal of a civil rights group to put itself out of business. After all, the last one to turn out the light could expect to turn around to face a bright landscape of equal opportunity.

There is no denying that the state of racial equality today is much better today that is was in the 1950s and 1960s. This has obviously had an impact on donations to and memberships in civil rights organizations. This was the topic of a front-page Washington Post article on April 5.

In chronicling how civil rights groups “are either struggling to stay relevant or struggling to stay alive,” Post reporter Darryl Fears noted that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s organization — has had trouble paying utility bills in recent years, the NAACP’s membership has fallen by hundreds of thousands and groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Council are now defunct. Another group, the National Urban League, is considered “viable” but suffering from “diminished visibility.”

The Post’s coverage of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was a completely different story. Fears wrote:

As the groups were drained of power, they sometimes hurt themselves. CORE’s most charismatic liberal leader, James Farmer, resigned and was replaced by a conservative.

That conservative, Roy Innis, has served as CORE’s national chariman since 1968. That’s hardly a flash in the pan, and one would expect that he’d be replaced within 39 years had his politics truly hurt the organization (Farmer, by the way, was national chairman between 1942 and 1944). Recent New Visions Commentaries from Project 21 authored by Innis can be found here and here.

Project 21 member John Meredith responded to the Post’s outrageous suggestion. Meredith, the son of James Meredith, the first black student at Ole Miss, pointed out that not only are conservatives in agreement with and willing to work for civil rights goals, but conservatives such as Innis provide a unique and needed perspective within the civil rights movement. Alas, the Post chose not to run the letter, but we reprint it here in its entirety:

In reporting on the general decline of civil rights organizations (“Civil Rights Groups Seeing Gradual End of Their Era,” April 5), I am appalled that a reason cited for alleged trouble at the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is because a “liberal leader… was replaced by a conservative.” This assumption furthers the fallacy that conservatives offer nothing to and cannot function in a civil rights context. My father – James Meredith – has espoused conservative values and individual rights for over 45 years. In doing so, he integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962 laying the foundation for future generations to exercise their civil rights not only in education but every aspect of American society. Like my father, CORE chairman Roy Innis is a civil rights visionary, in his case, shining a light on the burden government overregulation can have on minorities and the economically disadvantaged in this country.

David Almasi is executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research. To contact David directly,
write him at [email protected].

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.