NAACP speaks out against Ferguson Opinion Article

By President Gerald Hankerson, NAACP: Alaska, Oregon, Washington State Area Conference

I was deeply troubled to read the recent opinion piece printed in your Oct. 15, 2014 newspaper, “Protests in Missouri Unfair to Local Businesses,” written by one of your own newspaper staff, Tanner Streicher. Not only am I personally appalled that such an attack on the African American community was allowed a platform in your campus newspaper, but I am disturbed at how unashamedly inaccurate a portrayal of African American history is represented by this work of propaganda.

As President of NAACP Alaska, Oregon and Washington State, I genuinely care about the education and advancement of college students across Washington and am committed to promoting the legacy of civil rights and inclusion in communities and schools in our state. I am convinced that publishing and widely distributing misinformation about the African-American community deals a serious blow to the hard work of progress and justice that organizations such as the NAACP have fought for over a century to realize.

If, as Mr. Streicher claims, “In reality, they (African-Americans) are treated the same – or even better in most cases – as white Americans,” and “African-Americans around the United States [simply] believe they’re being oppressed” and imagine they have a specific history of oppression, then on what superficial altar did those who fought for our emancipation and inclusion in this country die? If oppression is a figment of the African-American imagination, the countless marches and demonstrations of the civil rights movement and subsequent hard-won legislation for desegregation, voting rights, employment and fair housing were all trivial pursuits. Maybe Mr. Streicher fails to realize (and perhaps his university is failing to educate him) that as the protesters march in Ferguson, still today NAACP attorneys are challenging racial discrimination, including policies that affect children and college students. The NAACP’s Legal Department focuses on significant cases of disenfranchisement and inequity every year, and it is inexcusable for an undereducated individual who holds a public platform in a campus newspaper to discredit, minimize and trivialize the history of African-Americans and groups such as the NAACP who continue to fight for liberty and justice for future generations.

In light of the tremendous sacrifices our foregoers paid to move us closer to equity, we cannot afford to repress the truth or allow damaging ideology a platform on which to flourish. As W.E.B. DuBois, one of the founders of the NAACP said, “The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.” I am most eager to hear what The Easterner and the EWU campus are doing to prevent this type of offense to education from occurring in the future.