The new president of the local chapter of the NAACP obviously didn’t pluck a page from Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” before appearing in front of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners this week.
Robert Davis, while lobbying the commissioners to hire a black assistant county manager, probably vanquished the already remote chance of that happening. We also doubt Davis and the organization made many friends, more likely alienating the majority of us who don’t believe skin color is a bullet point for a resume.
A more clever approach would have been to lobby the commissioners privately, not publicly push them into a corner and give them the opportunity to show who is boss. Perhaps stirring the pot — and not getting a result — was the NAACP chapter’s goal, and in that case, we say well done.
Davis, while addressing the commissioners, offered his organization’s help in finding the county a black assistant manager, saying his organization’s “requirements” for the job closely match those of the county’s. Left unsaid was what those requirements are, besides being black — and the local chapter’s particular expertise in assisting such a search.
Davis told the board that “the NAACP aims … to ensure the political, economic, educational and social equality of all people and to eliminate racial hatred … within the boundaries of our county.” But he didn’t explain how eliminating people of all races except black from consideration would accomplish that “equality” while promoting “great harmony among all the people.”
There was a time when the county Board of Commissioners settled on this formula when filling the positions of county manager and two assistants: one black, one white and one American Indian. It was a self-defeating formula then, achieving nothing beyond appeasement, and it would be self-defeating to resurrect should a second assistant county manager’s position be brought back.
The obvious approach, one that often eludes those making key hires in this county, is to concentrate on qualifications such as education and experience. But no one doubts that nepotism and cronyism guide hiring decisions locally, and that is worthy of condemnation. When a group, as the NAACP did Monday, asks that its own biases be favored over those of the commissioners’, then it cedes the moral high ground and the right to criticize.
One thing we will declare with certainty: As long as we treat people differently based on their race, which is what the NAACP advocated Monday night, then we won’t be treating people the same regardless of race, which was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. That a chapter of the NAACP, a civil rights organization with a splendid history, would take the position it took Monday night, clearly underlines how far it has drifted from its original mission.