When an impending hurricane is headed towards an area, we are told to plan, take action and be prepared for the unexpected. You may even have to evacuate, but you have to be prepared whenever an impending threat is headed your way.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the two keys to weather safety are to prepare for the risks and to act on those preparations when alerted by emergency officials.
It is important to listen to those emergency officials, because they are experienced and skilled with keeping track of impending threats and informing the community when those threats are on the way, and could potentially bring harm to them and their community.
When it comes to the impending threat that descended upon Houston’s Third Ward community on this past Sunday, many community members are outraged that the leadership of the NAACP Houston Branch did not sound the alarm and warn the community that they were aware that a group of armed White supremacists were about to protest in their own neighborhood.
A group touting themselves as “White Lives Matter” followed through on a pre-planned demonstration, directly in front of the NAACP Houston Branch headquarters. Protestors carrying assault rifles, holding White supremacist signs and waving Confederate flags posted up directly in front of the NAACP Houston Branch headquarters in Third Ward, while promoting “White Lives Matter” and hurling scathing accusations at the storied organization.
Officers from the Houston Police Department (HPD) showed up on the scene to provide protection for the “White Lives Matter” protestors. Several uniformed officers were on horseback, while others patrolled on the ground. HPD brought out barricades to separate “White Lives Matter” protestors from the members of the community who showed up to counter-protest their demonstration, while also blocking the entrance to the NAACP Houston Branch building.
In addition to the aforementioned visuals, protestors also held signs that quoted “14 Words,” which was coined by White supremacist David Lane, who was a founding member of the terrorist group The Order, whose mandate was “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” One of the members of the group wore a cap that promoted Donald Trump for 2016 President as well. Other tattoos and attire displayed White supremacist symbols. Trump has seemingly drawn an interest from White supremacist groups like the one that protested in front of the Houston NAACP headquarters on Sunday.
The demonstrations, which caught many Houstonians by surprise, should actually not have been a surprise at all. The event had not only been promoted on social media, but one of the organizers also appeared on a Fox 26 News segment to promote the event.
It was not a surprise to the leadership of the Houston NAACP either, in that they were directly notified well in advance of Sunday’s event, according to Houston NAACP leadership.
“Yes and Yes!”
This was the response given by Houston NAACP President Dr. James Douglas to the Houston Forward Times, when asked at their Monday afternoon press conference, whether Houston NAACP leadership knew about the planned demonstration by the White supremacists that caused havoc and created a tense atmosphere in Houston’s Third Ward community this past Sunday. Douglas was also asked whether Houston NAACP leadership made the decision to move forward with allowing these protestors to hold their demonstration outside of their Houston NAACP headquarters, without any pushback from the civil rights organization. Douglas stated that he was notified by HPD, while he was out of town, that the group had planned to hold the protest in front of their building. Douglas also acknowledged that the “White Lives Matter” group had a first amendment and constitutional right to publicly protest in front of the building.
Many Houstonians have been up-in-arms about the protest, not only being held in Third Ward, but directly being held in front of the NAACP Houston Branch headquarters.
The “White Lives Matter” protest has become national news, and has led many individuals to ask how something like this could have happened in their own backyard, and whether the NAACP Houston Branch leadership should have responded differently in order to counteract this bold and disrespectful move by these White supremacists.
The “White Lives Matter” protest was held on Sunday, but the Houston NAACP held a press conference in response to the “White Lives Matter” the next day.
The Houston NAACP issued a statement to the “White Lives Matter” protest, saying:
“On yesterday a group calling themselves “White Lives Matter” held a protest in front of our NAACP Houston Branch Headquarters. The NAACP is the oldest civil rights organization in the country; as such, we have advocated and demanded that all citizens in the United States be afforded all of their constitutional rights, especially their right to Freedom of Speech. And while we support their right to express themselves, we adamantly disagree with their position which is based on White privilege and lack of information that is totally flawed. While they criticize the NAACP for not denouncing a movement that has been productive in bringing awareness to the racial disparity in this country; they themselves espouse totally racist positions.”
Let’s be clear, the NAACP has a strong and impactful legacy, but the issues of today require the same boldness and directness that the NAACP of old once displayed, especially in the face of White supremacists who have no respect for an institution with such a significant legacy.
Since its founding on February 12, 1909, the NAACP has been the oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization in this country. The NAACP was formed partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, the capital of Illinois. The NAACP never avoided confrontation and they dealt with threats head on, without fear or favor. The NAACP waged a 30-year campaign against lynching, and strongly supported the federal Dyer Bill, which would have punished those who participated in or failed to prosecute lynch mobs. Most historians credit the resulting public debate-fueled by the NAACP report, “Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1919,” with drastically decreasing the incidence of lynching. The NAACP took on the tough issues and did not run or take safe positions. The NAACP always placed a strong emphasis on local organizing, and because of their fearlessness and unwavering commitment to stand up against external threats against African Americans, the NAACP membership grew rapidly, from around 9,000 in 1917 to around 90,000 in 1919, with more than 300 local branches. Throughout the 1940s the NAACP saw enormous growth in membership, recording roughly 600,000 members by 1946. It continued to act as a legislative and legal advocate, pushing for a federal anti-lynching law and for an end to state-mandated segregation.
Several months ago, on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was asked whether or not he would denounce the support he had gotten from well-known White supremacist and former KKK grand wizard David Duke, as well as other White supremacist groups. Trump is a man who could legitimately become the next president of the United States, and his comments and consistently inflammatory rhetoric should raise serious red flags amongst all Americans – especially African Americans and the NAACP.
Trump’s rhetoric has given White supremacists hope, and provided them with a renewed boldness that they can say whatever they want about Black people; about President Barack and Frist Lady Michelle Obama; about Black Lives Matter; and about the NAACP.
Ignoring White supremacists is not a viable solution, especially when Trump has given them life. The NAACP of old would never ignore White supremacists and their actions. They dealt with them head on. The press conference that was held by the Houston NAACP was not the time or the place to hold a membership recruitment drive or ask for donations to fix up the building.
If the leadership of the Houston NAACP would have shown up at Sunday’s “White Lives Matter” protest to confront the White supremacists who chose to diliberatley disrespect their community and their building, there may have been a flood of excited individuals coming by the NAACP Houston Branch headquarters the day after the protest, seeking to become new members to the organization, simply because of the strength and resolve they would have shown.
That, however, was not the case, and the leadership of the Houston NAACP took the safe route, and chose to avoid any conflict or confrontation. Right or wrong, that was their decision and they made it. Thankfully, no one was hurt and no violence occurred on Sunday.
The disrespect still stings for many in the community, however, and the community is now left wondering if the Houston NAACP leadership will be okay with any other White supremacist groups showing up with no problem for future protests in their own backyard, and in front of their NAACP Houston Branch headquarters, every Sunday from here on out.
Time will tell.