UB Law student/ NAACP Law Fellow Malcolm P. Ruff returns from the NAACP convention with one last blog post. If you want to hear more, log on to “Real Talk with Ray Baker” tonight (Wednesday) at 8:00 p.m.
After a much-needed break, I am back to report on the biggest event of the NAACP Centennial Convention: President Obama’s speech.
I would love to say I cheered from the front row as my president moved the audience with his best impression of a Baptist preacher’s tenor and his rhetoric of justice and equality. I would love to say I joined the masses in chanting “OBAMA” over and over; that I shared a once-in-a-lifetime handshake and embrace with the man of the century.
Unfortunately, I wound up watching the speech on CNN. At the end of the day, it turns out I really am an intern — and when the hottest ticket in the Big Apple ran out, my ticket and those of my fellow interns were sacrificed to the dignitary gods!
That turn of events seemed initially to be some sort of an unreal curse. Luckily I refused to miss the big picture, and listened intently to President Obama’s words of thanks, praise and encouragement to the NAACP.
For me, his most noteworthy remarks were those acknowledging our country’s progress in eliminating inequality, yet also acknowledging that minorities still get the short end of the stick when it comes to HIV infection, health care, poverty, unemployment and imprisonment — disparities that are vestiges of past discrimination and racial hatred.
To me, the fact that my president has this historical perspective is beyond empowering. Too many people want to wipe clean the stains of our sordid past, especially with the election of our first black president; but I’m sorry folks, it just doesn’t work like that! As President Obama stated, we must be honest with ourselves; while people now generally treat each other with a higher level of tolerance, systemic inequities —byproducts of the past — must be addressed immediately for this country to truly stand tall upon its founding ideals.
The speech was not only historic, but purposeful. Because we have our first black president, many nay-sayers feel that organizations like the NAACP are losing their relevance. But I echo President Obama’s sentiments that the NAACP is needed just as much today as we were in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. And there is a new agenda: not only to find and stomp out discrimination, but also to be a stronger proponent than ever for self-determination and responsibility in the black community.
By the way, I did get a picture with the president: not Barack, but Ben Jealous, the new fearless leader of the NAACP, who was gracious enough to invite me to his reception in midtown Manhattan (that’s us above). For more photos — of (1) Jeffrey Wright, (2) Charles Ogletree, (3) Bobby Scott, (4) Attorney General Eric Holder and (5) Julian Bond with Holder — click on the slideshow below.
– Malcolm P. Ruff