Eric Hoffer, the legendary longshoreman philosopher, pictured at right, once shared the remarkable insight that “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” Think about his words as you consider the story of civil rights in America.  

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909 to address the monstrous issue of racial injustice. It was an organization whose membership contained a few well-known blacks, such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell. Yet its true leadership and impetus came predominately from whites, who included notables like Joel and Arthur Spingarn, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Henry White, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, William Dean Howells, Lillian Wald, Lincoln Steffens, and Walter Sachs. 

The NAACP struggled at first.  The “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson was the law of the land for almost a half century after the birth of the organization.  Blacks had their own separate schools, drank from their own separate fountains, were served "to go" by restaurants from “back door” accesses, and rode ignominiously in the rear of city buses.

Finally, in 1954, the Warren Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, overturned this pillar of American apartheid.  The Court’s unanimous decision officially ended school desegregation and stood as a towering legal precedent for compelling widespread integration of the two races. Although the decision has often been criticized as a shabby piece of legal reasoning (which it was), it is still hailed as a moral crescendo in the history of American jurisprudence. 

A black graduate of Howard University argued the Brown case and later was himself appointed to the Supreme Court.  His name was Thurgood Marshall.  The struggle to secure civil rights for black people had, by that time, gained tremendous momentum.  It was a noble movement, which had reached its emotional and moral zenith when Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated his inspiring “dream” of racial equality to the thousands who had marched on Washington and had gathered at the Lincoln Monument in 1963 to hang on each of his words.  President Lyndon Johnson, during this kairos-moment in American history, subsequently used his immense skills as a political power-broker to push Congress to enact the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which mandated the end of school segregation, the unequal application of voter registration requirements, and discrimination in public accommodations.  This legislation was followed by the Voter Registration Act of 1965, which insured blacks’ equal access to the polls. 

After 1965, the Civil Rights Movement would fast become the Civil Rights Business. The country, to be sure, would strain to adapt to new standards of human decency, and martyrdom would sadly continue.  King would be assassinated just as Medgar Evers and Malcolm X were before him. Yet other civil rights groups, such as the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) would, taking their lead from the NAACP, also become household words as well. Educational and professional opportunities for blacks, not entirely based upon merit, proliferated. 

Around the same time, the Civil Rights “business” began developing a sharp radical edge.  In the 1970s, James Forman imposed himself upon white churches, demanding vast monetary reparations for blacks who had scarcely known the sting of racial injustice. Stokely Carmichael preached “black power.” Rap Brown insisted that “violence is as American as cherry pie.” Angela Davis became one of the FBI’s Most Wanted for alleged involvement in the murder of a judge in California. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton emerged as civil rights leaders with a ubiquitous presence.  Every time there was a racial issue of any kind, even a suspected one, one or both would be there to step in front of the rabble.  Their words and actions, however, often appeared to lack the critical moral acumen of their predecessors.  Sharpton, for example, stood front and center in the Tawana Brawley episode, where a 15-year old girl falsely accused six white men, some of whom were police officers, of raping her. Jackson, in the same way, used his political clout to extort a theological degree from Chicago Theological Seminary when he had not even completed all the necessary course hours and led a protest at Stanford University against a required course in Western Civilization, by chanting “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civilization’s got to go!” 

For 40 years Americans watched and listened passively as such black civil rights notables continued to assail the country as "racist" and to engage in a litany of abuses.  The work of such activists ceased to embody a "movement," or merely a "business" for that matter, but transmogrified itself into a "racket."

There is no more glaring example of this fact than the reaction of the black community to the George Zimmerman verdict. All the evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that he had been assaulted by Martin and had shot and killed the seventeen year old athlete in self-defense. There was no evidence that this man was a racist – absolutely none!  So glaring were the deficiencies in the case against Zimmerman that Alan Dershowitz, Harvard’s premiere criminal law expert, has vehemently asserted that the case should never have been brought and that the prosecutors should be sued and disbarred for malpractice! Never mind the disquieting facts, not admitted into trial and hidden by the media, that Martin who had come from a broken home had been suspended from school for the possession of stolen jewelry and suspended a second time for using marijuana. If these are not attributes of a troubled and misguided youth, then what are we to make of them?  While his death was a heart-rending tragedy, the gravity of which should not be discounted, it was far from a criminal act. Self-defense does not constitute murder.

Still blacks and limousine liberals continue to argue and otherwise to suggest that Zimmerman, a “wannabe cop,” set out to kill someone – anyone – that fateful night.  Are these people possessed with clairvoyance, or what?  How do they know what Zimmerman’s state of mind was?  At best their wobbly conclusion is a guess based upon nothing more than speculation fueled by media propaganda.  The fact is that, after a fair trial, the defendant was acquitted of all charges against him. There was certainly no legal charge that could stick and scarcely a moral one.

One might suppose that genuine “civil rights” advocates would fully embrace a verdict of the judicial system. Is that not, in part, what civil rights advocacy should be about?  Instead, Zimmerman’s family must remain in hiding, and he himself must don a bullet-proof vest when he appears publicly. 

In addition, Attorney General Eric Holder has, responding to a tidal wave of political pressure from whom else than the NAACP, vowed to investigate the feasibility of a civil rights action against Zimmerman. President Barack Obama publicly opined that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” Comments from both Holder and Obama have served to inflame public sentiment against Zimmerman. 

The civil rights “movement” is now unquestionably an unscrupulous, debauched, money-driven “racket,” which has likely reached the zenith of its influence.  There are signs that the tide may be about to turn against Jackson and Sharpton as the race hustlers they are and against Holder and Obama as the political opportunists and panderers they are, who have done more during the last five years to disunite this country than any two “public servants” in history.  The civil rights industry will remain a racket until the overwhelming majority of the American people stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”

July 24, 2013