Will NAACP’s Resolution be This Summer’s Big Race-Related Story?

There’s some ignorance on both sides of the debate over the NAACP’s Tea Party resolution. But, the issue could wind up being the Race-related story of the year.

I’ve been eager to weigh in on the NAACP’s resolution on Tea Power movement as the debate both on TV and online has been interesting to watch, to say the least.

There’s ignorance on both sides and some notable truths that have come out in the arguments, some of which have little to do with race.  We’ll address those truths in another post.

The media coverage of this week’s 101th National Convention of the NAACP rivaled, if not exceeded, the coverage of last summer’s centennial gathering of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

As a life member of the NAACP, I was particularly interested in watching some of the discussions about social media and new ways to reach out to new members.

But, the debates about the Tea Party seemed drown out other discussions that surely went on during the week.

Thanks to the hometown newspaper in Missouri’s largest city,  The Kansas City Star, I was able to find some reporting on OTHER convention events and happening.

From the plight of minority workers helping to clean up the oil spill to education as the civil rights issue of our time,  other issues like my issue of use of social were addressed during the gathering that ended Thursday.

Why The Tea Party Was THE STORY

Those of us in journalism know exactly why the tea party resolution towered over other happenings as the story of the week.

There were the news values of conflict (NAACP vs. Tea Party, liberals vs. conservatives), proximity (resolution was proposed by the Kansas City NAACP), and impact (would the NAACP negatively affect the viewpoints of the hundreds of thousands of Tea Party supporters)

Both the USA Today and The New York Times have offered front-page treatments on who’s in the Tea Party and

These leading news organizations, which often drive the media agenda, established that any and everything having to do with this movement should be among the issues covered in our newscasts in the pages of our newspapers.

The NAACP resolution represented a new angle on a story that continue until the Nov. 2 mid-term elections.

What About the Race Issue?

As I watched the seemingly non-stop coverage on TV earlier this week, I was taken back to last summer when we saw the news media cover the incident involving Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and his arrest by a white Cambridge police officer.

The controversial arrest and what it says about race and class are the subject of a new book by Charles Ogletree, The Presumption of Guilt.

I just got my copy yesterday and am reading it now.

Of course, the so-called Beer summit involving the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, President Obama and attended by Vice President Joe Biden, was a story in and of itself.

The summit elevated what might have been a little-known police incident to a national discussion about how whites and blacks interact, especially when law enforcement is involved.

This time, it’s those racist depictions of President Obama that are at issue in the NAACP’s resolution.  Instead of limited the discussion to just those depictions, many of the news reports on this week’s resolution went further into talking about how whites respond to allegations of racism.

Should an entire political movement be branded as “racist” because of the actions of a “fringe” element looking mostly for media attention?

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous emphasized over and over that his organization was not calling all members of the Tea Party racists.

“We have no problem with the Tea Party.  We hav ea problem with the Tea Party tolerating racists in their ranks,” he noted in an interview with ABC.

He made a similar statement on CNN’s Larry King Live this week.

Jealous, in fact, has written another piece Friday post-convention for CNN.com.

(He’s a former journalist and knows the importance of putting out his thoughts firsthand)

Resolution’s Impact?

Having attended multiple NAACP conventions as a member, I know that most of those resolutions that are passed by delegates don’t go very far beyond the convention.   They are intended to state the position of the organization on major issues of the day.

The language of the final resolution won’t be released until later this year after it is finalized.  But, the effect of the media coverage before and after the resolution passed  may be much greater than the resolution itself.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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