The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909 by, among several others, Ida Wells-Barnett and W.E.B. DuBois.
I am not going to explain why the NAACP’s founders, all of them African-Americans, used the word “colored” to refer to African-Americans because the answer is too obvious to have to explain to anyone who has a high school diploma, and for those who have that diploma and still don’t know, they are unreachable by any explanation of which I am capable.
The NAACP has accomplished much over the past century (not all by itself, of course, but still it has accomplished much for black people). Significant progress has been made — and yet that word, “colored,” is still in the name. It’s still the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which still works out to the NAACP as an acronym. Why has the NAACP not removed that outdated term, “colored,” from its name and given itself a new name? The NAABP, for example. Or the NAAAAP, for example.
I don’t know the exact answer to that, and there probably isn’t an exact answer. There are probably many answers, depending on who you ask, and there probably have been many answers, depending on whether you asked the question in 1930, or in 1950, or in 1965, or 1968, or in the 1970s, or 80s, or 90s.
Speaking for myself, I think I have a good general idea, born of intuition, historical understanding gained through reading and education, and — dare I say it? — a certain native intelligence and common sense, of why the word “colored” stayed in the organization’s name. Again, though, I am not going to explain my ideas on this subject. Even though the possible answers are not quite as obvious as the explanation for the word’s selection in 1909, I still feel that if a normally intelligent, reasonably well-educated person gives some thought to the matter, he or she could come up with at least one or two very sensible, reasonable, logical, and rational explanations for why the NAACP chose, and continues to choose, to retain its name as it is and as it has been since 1909. And for those who cannot — again, I don’t believe any elaboration I could make would or could make sense to them. Their minds would not be amenable to any explanations I could make. And I try to avoid the stress of dealing with thick skulls as much as I can (although not as much as I should).
Having said all this, there are a couple of comments I do want to make about the NAACP’s choice as an organization to keep the letter “C,” representing the word “colored,” in its name:
- The aforementioned choice is not an indication that the NAACP is a racist organization.
- Number 1 being true does not mean that the word “colored” is a term of self-reference that is still used, or routinely used, by black people today.
- The fact that the NAACP has not changed its name, and that some people (who in my view are not well-intentioned) consider the NAACP to be ignoring the racist implications of a word in their own organization’s name, does not logically lead to the conclusion that a white member of a loosely organized movement of far right activists is NOT expressing racist sentiment when he writes a made-up letter from the NAACP to Abraham Lincoln, filled with racist stereotypes and using the word “colored,” by my count, a dozen times.
I believe that Mark Williams, who wrote that made-up letter, is a racist, and I believe that he needs to be called on it. However, I don’t believe that in doing that, I need to give his personal website a link, but if anyone else wishes to do so, that link and further details can be found in this TPMDC article by Evan McMorris-Santoro.