The glamorous Grand Ballroom at the New York Hilton Hotel was beginning to fill up with convention goers as the fifth day of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) 100th Anniversary celebration went forward.
I took my seat near the front, marveling at the glittery backdrop of the stage. I watched Benjamin Todd Jealous—the president of the NAACP— take pictures with ecstatic delegates.
As the crowd was waiting for Abdoulaye Wade, the president of Senegal, to take the stage for a speech, images flashed across the jumbo television sets at the front of the ballroom.
After their iconic images flashed across the screen, corporate logos took their place. McDonald’s, Exxon Mobil, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Anheuser Busch, AT&T, Starbucks, the U.S. Army and more—they are all sponsors of the 100th anniversary celebration.
“Our agenda as we head into our second century as a civil rights organization is also to revive our legacy as a human rights organization,” Jealous told the Associated Press in a recent interview.
But the corporate sponsors are not attesting to that focus on human rights. In fact, the sponsors have done, and continue to do, great damage to communities of color in the U.S. and to the cause of human rights.
Bank of America is perhaps the most egregious example, implicated in predatory lending and the sub-prime mortgage crisis that has hit African Americans particularly hard. United for a Fair Economy, in a report titled “Foreclosed: The State of the Dream 2008,” predicts that the sub-prime mortgage crisis will lead people of color to lose a staggering $213 billion.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that “Subprime mortgages have gone disproportionately to Hispanics and African Americans. In 2006, the rate of subprime mortgages for home purchase for Hispanics and Africans Americans was approximately double the white rate.”
Bank of America is battling a class-action lawsuit brought by African American employees who say “the bank discriminates against African-Americans in pay, promotions, training and support services,” the New York Times reported.
The NAACP has initiated their own lawsuit against HSBC and Wells Fargo, alleging “systematic, institutionalized racism in their subprime lending,” according to CNN.
Why isn’t the NAACP suing Bank of America?
Does someone have to point out to Jealous that the U.S. Army is hardly the standard-bearer of human rights in the world?
Or that McDonald’s can’t possibly help the higher obesity rates found among African Americans?
And that Starbucks’ union-busting tactics are anything but pro-human rights?
I think you get the picture. DuBois and Wells are turning in their graves over the NAACP’s hypocrisy.
For more information about sub-prime mortgages and communities of color, check out the Indypendent’s award-winning piece by Joseph Huff Hannon, “Facing Foreclosure: Brooklyn Retiree On Verge of Losing His Home as Subprime Lenders Target Cash-Poor Black Seniors.”