Originally created 03/05/02

NAACP off track



Thousands of civilians have been killed, a prestigious chunk of New York City lies in ruins, the nation is at war, the economy's been in recession.

Yet despite widespread reprioritizing of agendas since the awful events of Sept. 11, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is still obsessing over the Confederate flag. It's not flying atop the South Carolina Statehouse anymore, but it's still flying in a place the NAACP doesn't approve of.

So there the NAACP was Sunday, launching its spoilsport "border patrol" pickets at Palmetto State welcome centers, handing out literature and urging travelers who'd listen not to spend their tourist dollars in the state. About 30 demonstrators worked the North Augusta welcome center.

As far as most South Carolinians of whatever color are concerned, the long and tiresome Dixie flag controversy was supposedly laid to rest by the General Assembly more than a year ago, following the compromise between the heritage groups and the state's black lawmakers.

The banner now flies on the Statehouse grounds instead of atop the Statehouse dome. Meanwhile, the state has moved on to deal with real problems - the war, the economy, homeland defense, etc. Not even a recent dust-up about the fabric used for the flag could reignite the issue.

The NAACP, however, just won't let go. It's demanding a nationwide tourist, convention and business boycott of the Palmetto State until the Confederate flag is moved from public grounds and put in a museum somewhere.

Yes, business and tourism have lagged in Carolina as they have everywhere else since Sept. 11. Instead of trying to worsen that situation the NAACP ought to be working to improve it. There's little public appetite for boycotts over symbolic issues anymore.

Sadly, no group is hurt more in a weak economy than African-Americans. If the boycott succeeds, it will hurt the pocketbooks of South Carolina blacks more than any other single group - which is why most of the state's black lawmakers are either opposed to the NAACP action or give it only lukewarm support.

For most of its history the NAACP was a great fighter for civil and human rights, but today its priorities are all askew.

After all that's happened since September, obsessing over the Confederate flag contributes more to black people's problems than to their solutions. The NAACP should channel its energies into substantive issues - education, jobs, health care, etc., not damage the economy that helps deal with these vital issues.