Shucking Off Paternalism

Published May 1, 2000

If school choice has become the new civil rights movement, why is it that many traditional civil rights groups, such as the NAACP, join in lawsuits opposing the empowerment of low-income minority parents with school vouchers?

It’s because the American Left is “covertly pulling the strings ” of many of these civil rights groups and is “quick to chastise and slander any black leader who veers from the party line,” according to Mikel Holt, editor of the Milwaukee Community Journal, Wisconsin’s largest black newspaper.

Holt, who spoke at the March symposium in Milwaukee on Expanding and Enhancing Educational Options for African-Americans, makes these accusations in his new book, Not Yet Free At Last, from the Institute for Contemporary Studies.

Holt describes “the NAACP’s recent association with the People for the American Way, an organization founded by Norman Lear and other Hollywood players that espouses the liberal/missionary agenda.” The National Education Association, which opposes school vouchers, helps fund PFAW.

“History has shown that when a black organization comes under the philosophical control of whites, the black voice is muted or misinterpreted,” writes Holt.

But not silenced. After the NAACP fired local chapter head Willie Breazell last year for writing a pro-school choice column, Breazell helped form a grassroots school choice group in Colorado Springs. Curtis Gatewood, president of the local NAACP chapter in Durham NC, defied national policy and joined a March school choice rally led by Winston-Salem Alderman Vernon Robinson. And last year, the Urban League’s Greater Miami chapter came out in opposition to the NAACP’s lawsuit against the Florida voucher program.

As black leader Howard Fuller put it during the Milwaukee Symposium, “We’re not asking to be empowered . . . we’re empowering ourselves.”