By James Clingman
Tennessee Williams said, “The only thing worse than a liar is a liar that is also a hypocrite.” I could not agree more, especially as it relates to what is currently underway in my hometown under the auspices of the NAACP. Collusion, dishonesty, inequity, intimidation and, yes, hypocrisy, abound within the ranks of this venerable organization.
In my hometown, the letters NAACP could very well stand for: Negroes Are Acting like Crazy People.
That hasn’t always been the case.
Over the past eight years, the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP rose from near obscurity to become Ohio’s largest branch, winning the national NAACP convention in 2008 from work done by then-president Edith Thrower, and continued by her successor, Christopher Smitherman. Now, under current President Ishton Morton, the national convention selection committee has again chosen to come to Cincinnati in 2016.
The Cincinnati branch has won numerous national awards, established and funded six scholarship endowments, adopted two schools to provide mentors and tutors, done work that resulted in tens of millions of dollars for Black contractors and workers, successfully obtained the early release of two prisoners and kept another one from being executed. The branch has opened doors to political empowerment by drafting initiatives, collecting tens of thousands of signatures, and placing our initiatives on the ballot for a public vote. We won on three of the initiatives, which prevented red light cameras from being installed in our city, our water system from being privatized, and preventing the building of a $200 million jail.
Despite all of that good work, and much more, our branch is once again fighting against national representative, Gill Ford in his effort to determine the outcome of our local election. He tried it in 2012, and he and his local cronies are at it again; but this time he is using even dirtier tactics. The same candidates who lost by an overwhelming margin in 2012 are back again, with the help of Ford, to take over the branch for their own personal benefit via their union ties.
The proof of his actions is well documented, and I would be glad to send it to anyone who is interested, in light of the fact that I have spoken to folks in other branches who have had the “Gill Ford experience.” I do not understand why the national office of the NAACP allows this man to do whatever he wants, but I do know that we will not be silent about his shenanigans.
The irony and hypocrisy of this sham being perpetrated on the good members of our branch is that it comes in the shadow of the national office’s position on voting rights and its recent stance against voter suppression. Gill Ford, in his effort to get his cronies elected, is issuing edicts that essentially result in voter suppression and trampling on voters’ rights. Instead of supporting our members’ voting rights he is committing “voting wrongs” against the very folks who help pay his salary. To make matters even worse, his behavior is the antithesis of what the NAACP purports to fight for. Elections must be fair, not just nationally but locally, where it counts even more. In our case the NAACP, thus far, has not chosen to support the very tenets it espouses. That is hypocrisy, folks.
Gill Ford is disallowing what the NAACP calls “watchers” and “challengers” to monitor our election, a capacity I served in during the 2012 election, and positions that have always been chosen by both candidates. He wrote, “The National Office will be working with the Election Supervisory Committee,” which is stacked with his takeover crowd, one of whom is currently under investigation by the Ohio Elections Commission.
Ford has arbitrarily changed the venue, the date for the election, the day of the week, and the timeframe for voting, from 12 hours to five, initially, and now to eight hours. That is hardly enough time for some 2,000 members to cast votes. Voter suppression? This was done at the request of the son of the candidate for president, who was also “selected” to head the Election Supervisory Committee. Do we have a conflict of interest here? You be the judge.
The NAACP Board of Directors must put an end to Gill Ford’s dictatorial and dishonest tactics, which are in total contradiction to what the organization presents itself to be on the national stage. The NAACP needs to make certain its own house is swept clean before it points out inconsistencies and attempts at voter suppression in other places. A civil rights organization that commits civil wrongs against its own members, and one that turns a blind eye to hypocrisy in its own ranks, is not one with which I want to be associated, nor should any conscious and righteous person. Clean it up, NAACP!
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, Blackonomics.com.