"The NAACP Image Awards recently nominated artists like Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj, both of whom have used the N-word and lyrics which degrade women. Does this make the NAACP hypocritical?"
In response to this question, 83 percent of the 335 respondents said "Yes, these nominations are a contradiction to the message and image of the NAACP." Another 5.8% of the African American respondents said that the NAACP might be a bit hypocritical in their approach, but that giving awards to these artists helps to keep them relevant. Another 10 percent of the respondents said that the NAACP was not being hypocritical by nominating these artists.
There was also some degree of variation in responses based on age. Those under the age of 30 were the least likely to say that the NAACP was being hypocritical (74.1% disagreed with the NAACP's decision), while those over the age of 50 were most likely to have a problem with the nominations (83.5%). So, while every group had a problem with the NAACP's move, young people were the least likely to express concern.
These survey results are interesting in light of the recent defense of the NAACP Image Awards by Tom Joyner, who seemed to feel that giving awards to hip-hop artists is a way for the NAACP to remain "prime time."
"This is show business... and if you want them (the NAACP) to be prime time, and air their awards show on a major network, then you're going to have to have the rappers," said Joyner.
Tom Joyner is partially correct in his analysis of the situation. Show business itself has accepted even the most vile hip-hop artists as a standard form of entertainment. Given that the NAACP has made the decision to enter the entertainment business, they are going to be regularly confronted with similar ethical dilemmas. To make matters worse, by being so steadfast about the business of making money, the NAACP runs into other interesting contradictions, such as having the Fox Network be the channel on which people can watch their annual awards show. There was also the questionable contribution the NAACP accepted from Wells Fargo, the bank that has been accused of massive amounts of predatory lending in the African American community. Finally, there was the peculiar decision by the NAACP's Detroit Branch, who recently decided to give an award to the artist Kid Rock, in spite of the fact that Kid Rock regularly uses the Confederate flag in his performances. For some, this is no different from the Jewish Anti-Defamation League giving an award to an artist who uses a Swastika on stage.
What all this seems to argue is that perhaps our nation's most respected civil rights organization should not be in the business of entertainment in the first place. If I, for example, were to make a little extra money by owning a strip club, I'd have to answer to those who might rightfully accuse me of being a sexist. This is not to say that the NAACP would ever own a strip club, but it's very difficult to fight against the same institutions that are paying all of your bills. In other words, you can't take money from just any old person who offers it, for they will usually demand something in return (any father would say the same thing to his teenage daughter).
What's also interesting about the survey results is that the very same young people who are most willing to forgive the NAACP for rewarding negative hip-hop artists are also the ones who respect the organization the least. In a separate survey taken earlier this year, over 60% of the respondents under the age of 30 said that the NAACP is not being run efficiently. Therefore, the people who have the most faith in the NAACP (older African Americans) are also the ones who are the most disappointed in the group's decision to promote negative hip-hop artists.
The goal is not to argue that the NAACP is somehow an irrelevant, corrupt or worthless organization. There is no brand as established in civil rights as the NAACP, which is all the more reason to continue protecting the organization's image. At the same time, those of us in the black community who love the NAACP should not allow the organization's leadership sign onto just any old thing that seems hip or profitable. Yes, many of us in our community love hip-hop. But the truth is that we must come together to challenge the destructive imagery that exists within the genre and demand that our leaders speak up on the messages that continue to destroy our children. Standing up to the powers that be requires courage, and it's hard to be courageous while simultaneously feeding an insatiable addiction to oppressive American capitalism that is designed to enslave black people. The NAACP should simply try to do better.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.