Can New Leader Jump Start the NAACP?
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
The NAACP has got a new president, gay marriages are now legal in California and the father of a slain high school football star wants to change the way the LAPD deals with undocumented immigrants. We will debate these topics and more on today's Bloggers' Roundtable. Joining me are Amani Channel, who blogs at MyUrbanReport.com, Shawn Williams, a blogger with DallasSouthBlog.com, and Shaun King, who blogs at ShaunInTheCity.com. Thanks, guys.
ALL: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: All right. First up, since we have two Shawns, I'm going to have to call you Shawn Williams and Shaun King every time. So anyway, first up, after years of being called old and irrelevant, the NAACP made a startling move over the weekend. Selected its youngest president ever, 35-year-old Benjamin Todd Jealous. So earlier we talked to Mary Frances Berry who was on the search committee. It is your turn to have your say.
Shawn Williams, Jealous is only 35 years old, and he has worked in civil and human rights. But he is not a marquis name for most of the public. So what do you think of the pick?
Mr. SHAWN WILLIAMS (Blogger, DallasSouthBlog.com): Well, you know, he is young. And I don't think he was a startling pick, only because the initial reports had him as Julian Bonds' favorite. So it kind of was not a big surprise. He is young, and I do want to think and make sure everybody realizes, though, that just because he's young doesn't mean he's necessarily going to attract younger people to the organization just like with Barack Obama. The assumption was, he was going to just, because he's black, he's going to have all black people vote for him. Well, it wasn't the case. He had to work for that. And so I think that, you know, with his resume, it looks like Mr. Jealous might have the opportunity, but there's still a lot of work ahead of him.
CHIDEYA: Amani, what do you think that he has to do to get young people invested in the NAACP?
Mr. AMANI CHANNEL (Blogger, MyUrbanReport.com): Well, I think he has to raise the visibility of the organization. What I do like about him is he has a lot of media experience, which you'd assume that he's media-savvy, and would be able to address issues that may be relevant for younger individuals like myself. I'm 33, he's 35, so I look at his resume and I'm like, wow, he's done a lot in his short life, and perhaps he can be an inspiration, perhaps he can attract and establish a platform for the organization that can get people to get involved in the organization and understand its relevancy even in this time that we're living in right now.
CHIDEYA: Shaun King, one of the issues on the table is what the NAACP actually should do. Should it focus on a traditional civil rights agenda, on black economic empowerment, you know, really what are we talking about? What do you want to see?
Mr. SHAUN KING (Blogger, ShaunInTheCity.com): Well, you know, I'm really hoping that Ben Jealous will have a big say in kind of the future of the organization. And I think part of the problem has been a past that if there are some expectations of the president and the president doesn't really have the giftings and the skill set to kind of lead in those areas, it can be a problem, you know. He is not the traditional civil rights leader. And so I think if we're expecting that of him, that' going to be a big mistake. But you know, I'm hoping here over the next two or three months that they can really kind of put their heads together and identify some issues where he has strengths and can really lead with some courage and boldness.
CHIDEYA: Amani, he served as the head of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, and - that's the Black Newspaper Publishers Association. And he helped create software that allowed dozens of publishers to put their newspapers online. Now, there's these new groups like The Color of Change that helped organize Jena Six, and they really used the internet well. Do you think Jealous has to do the same with the NAACP?
Mr. CHANNEL: Well I think that when you're looking at historic organizations, that everyone is looking to how the internet can improve interactivity, help improve and increase activism and really reach the audience which is of course now going to the internet. So you would hope that his experience in doing so would be able to be applied to the NAACP, and perhaps they will be able to establish some sort of, whether it be developing some software, or developing a very interactive website, something to really get the message out to improve the image and to get really, not only younger people, but older people as well.
Of course, we're not in the civil rights - what's thought of as the civil rights era, but there are definitely civil rights issues that all Americans are faced with these days. So you'd hope that he'd be able to take some of the issues and be able to attract and engage the community in the United States, folks who live here.
CHIDEYA: Alright, guys, I'm going to have to take a quick break. But I'm going to ask you to stick around so we can continue our conversation with some new topics. And coming up next on News & Notes, we've got more from the Bloggers' Roundtable, including a fight over illegal immigration.
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CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya, and this is News & Notes. Back to our Bloggers' Roundtable. Joining me are Armani Channel, who blogs at MyUrbanReport.com, Shawn Williams, a blogger with DallasSouthBlog.com, and Shaun King, who blogs at ShaunInTheCity.com.
So let's jump right back in to our roundtable. New topic. In March, a 17-year-old high school football star named Jamiel Shaw, Jr. was gunned down and killed in Los Angeles. Many Angelinos marked and mourned his death. And the man who killed him is allegedly a gang member who was in the country illegally from Mexico. Now the student's father, Jamiel Shaw, Sr., wants LAPD to change a policy called Special Order 40. It prevents the police from approaching people solely to find out their immigration status.
Now, Shawn Williams, Mr. Shaw has teamed up with an L.A. City Council member named Dennis Zine, a former LAPD officer, to try to change the law. So what do you think about that law, Special Order 40, should it be changed?
Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, Special Order 40 probably should be revisited. You know, if you have someone in custody and they have been accused of a crime, especially if they've been arrested, I don't see a problem with asking them about their citizenship. Unfortunately, in a case like this, it wouldn't have been helpful because the person who perpetrated the crime had been stopped in another city. So, you know, even though he'd been arrested, it wasn't in L.A. You know, this is a broader issue, and I do think that Mr. Shaw's focus is positive. However, you know, in the grand scheme of things, it's going to take a federal effort to really see real change.
CHIDEYA: Now, Shaun King, some people think this crusade comes out of tensions in south L.A. between blacks and Latinos. Could this justified crusade on Mr. Shaw's part actually make things tenser?
Mr. KING: Yeah, I think it's doing that right now. And that's unfortunate. And, you know, one of my fears is that Mr. Shaw, I mean, his issue is very real and very deep and personal, and people are starting to kind of use the death of his son as a political football. And the tensions, you know, right now in Los Angeles, are really at an all-time high. I mean, it hasn't been this bad in a long time. And so I think the discussion tends to not be a healthy discussion any time we're talking about relations between black communities and Latino communities in Los Angeles. There's just so much tension there.
You know, I think something that I'm not hearing so much, though, is, issues like this, with an undocumented or an illegal immigrant committing this type of crime, I think unfortunately it also hurts all immigrants. And I'm not really hearing, you know, that part of the discussion. Because for me, I mean, if this crime had not happened, you would not have the current tensions at the level, you know, that they're in right now. And so when undocumented immigrants kind of commit these kind of heinous crimes, I mean killing a college-bound star athlete in the middle of the street, it ends up really being kind of a stain - and that's wrong - but a stain on the issues dealing with immigration. And it's complicated for sure.
CHIDEYA: Amani, should the crusade really be around gang violence, and not about immigration?
Mr. CHANNEL: Well, it seems to be two different discussions, or two difference conversations that need to be had. Because let's say this suspect had committed a carjacking, or was in some sort of credit card scheme that wasn't necessarily in that gang violence category, I mean, would - of course you're still going to have victims, would you have this crusade against this illegal gang member, which is of course how it's going to stigmatized or stereotyped.
You know, there are larger societal issues we have to look at in terms of the gang violence, the gang culture that exists in California and throughout this country, as well as, how's this country going to address the issues that are related to illegal immigrants. I mean, we all know that illegal immigrants are making up a large portion of some job categories in this country, so there is a need for them in that way. But of course, no one wants to be victimized by someone who's in this country illegally.
So there are definitely more discussions that need to be had. I don't know how this Special Order 40, how it's really supposed to be applied. The way I understand it is that it prohibits officers from initiating contact just to find out a person's immigration status. So you could have a situation where police could be racially profiling Hispanics, or anyone else for that matter, just on the sole purpose of, well, if this Special Order 40 gets done away with. So definitely a complicated issue. I feel for the families. You know, Mr. Shaw and his family. Of course, he has to do something, and he probably needs - he has no choice but to tackle it in this way. But there's just a lot of questions and a lot of issues that this whole subject raises.
Mr. KING: Farai, this is Shaun King. You know, my real agitation with this is, you know, a lot of people in Los Angeles are saying, you brought up just the issue of gang violence. You know, it is true that 90 percent of the gun crimes and murders in Los Angeles are committed by people of the same race, but you can't tell Jamiel Shaw, Sr. that. I mean, had this man who's accused of killing his son not been in the country illegally, it's highly likely that his son would be alive right now.
So I think people are trying to divert the attention back to gang violence. Hey, that's a real issue, and that's something that should be getting tons of attention. And it does get a lot of attention, but the fact of the matter is, Jamiel Shaw, Jr. would not be dead right now if the issue of undocumented immigrants was dealt with better in Los Angeles.
And the city, in so many ways, kind of has a hands-off policy with undocumented immigrants. And I think because it's so complicated, people aren't really jumping in there to say hey, how can we fix it? And ultimately, it hurts the black community because of this tension, and it even hurts immigrants, particularly in Los Angeles, when these types of crimes happen.
CHIDEYA: All right, guys. I'm going to have to move to a speed round. I'm going to ask you all the same question about our last topic. The state supreme court in California overturned a ban on same-sex marriage. Now, on the other hand, an initiative to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage will probably qualify for the November ballot. Do you think this is going to become a hot political issue, and possibly even get into the presidential race, a debate? Shawn Williams.
Mr. WILLIAMS: I think one reason why it won't take hold like it did in 2004 is because number one, John McCain is not the true conservative that the Bush White House was, so I don't think that he's going to take this stand. As well as the three candidates who are left, all have a very similar stance in the fact that they think that the state should make the decision. So, because of that, I don't think that it will be the same as 2004.
Mr. CHANNEL: Yeah, I don't see it as a big issue. Of course, you might have some conservative Christians that would like to see this issue addressed, but there's just far more important issue. I mean, we have a war that's going on that so many people are opposed with. The economy is just in the tank right now. There are just bigger issues, bigger fish to fry right now that, hopefully, our national leaders will be considering during this election campaign.
CHIDEYA: Shaun King?
Mr. KING: I think it is going to become an issue. You know, in 2004, the war was at a terrible point, and this issue still became kind of a hot button issue that really swayed a lot of voters. And the question for me is, will McCain flip-flop? I don't think Barack Obama is going to flip on the issue, but at one point, McCain was for the tax cuts. He's against the tax cuts, he's for them. You know, at one point, he was for talking with Hamas. Now, he's against talking with Hamas.
I think the X factor is, will the people that have McCain's ear encourage him to flip-flop on this issue, and if he does, I think they could begin to kind of use it as a wedge issue, not just with white voters, but with black voters as well. I mean, it's a very big issue in black communities around the country, so, if McCain flip-flops, it could be an issue.
CHIDEYA: All right, guys. Thanks so much.
ALL: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: Shawn Williams blogs for DallasSouthBlog.com. He joined me from Cakemix Recording Studios in Dallas, Texas. Amani Channel blogs at MyUrbanReport.com. And Shaun King writes for ShaunInTheCity.com. Amani and Shaun King joined me from the studios of Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta.
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