Is the NAACP still relevant?

This morning I am sitting in my lab, on my off Friday, running experiments, and I am reading news stories courtesy of my brand-new Google Reader (which is the greatest invention I've seen in a while, thanks LK!). One thing that I've noticed recently are several articles relating to the NAACP. These articles, and my responses to them, got me to thinking about the NAACP in the 21st century.....Are they actually helping or hindering our progress as Blacks in America? My first gut response to that question was an emphatic "NO!". But then again, I've never seen the value of the NAACP during my lifetime. In no way am I trying to discount or trivalize the accomplishments that the NAACP has acheived. But since the end of the Civil Rights Movement as we knew it in the 60's and 70's, the NAACP has not been the same. As a child, I grew up in an extremely pro-Black home that exposed me to every Black organization - except the NAACP.

So what has made me think that NAACP is irrelevant in today's society? Well hearing that they wanted to boycott NASCAR because of the lack of Black drivers certainly didn't endear them to my heart...In fact, I thought it was a complete waste of time. Let's look at our communities: high rates of unemployment, drug use, incarceration, single parent homes, drop outs, violence; yet the NAACP wants to talk about the lack of Black drivers in NASCAR?

What really bothered me (and got this blog rolling) was the interview of Bruce Gordon, the former Verizon CEO who left the top post at the NAACP after just 19 months. Here's a link to the article. What jumped out to me was the NAACP's desire to stay away from outreach and community service. Does that mean that tutoring a child in math and science is not as important as suing someone or calling for a boycott or staging a mock funeral? Or does it mean that you don't have the membership, the will, or simply don't care to work directly with the citizens of our communities? Either way, I find it to be pretty easy to sit around and think of people to sue, instead of going directly into our communities and helping those who need our help the most.

Maybe I'm just too involved in community service, or was raised with more exposure to more "hands-on" organizations, but I just don't see what actual good the NAACP is doing for the average Black person in America, besides being "the voice of the Black community" everytime the media needs a comment from someone. I just don't get it. I'm sure I'll get comments about how misguided I am, and that's fine. But I'd love for someone to actually show me how the NAACP is making a significant difference in the life of someone who needs healthcare, or good schools in their community, or even just a grocery store that has reasonable prices and fresh food.