Bending Toward Justice

Ben Jealous is right. The NAACP's task in the 21st century is to turn racial equality into racial justice.


Of course, the NAACP was at best a reluctant participant in the civil rights movement’s dramatic, world-changing protests. This organization has always been more comfortable walking the halls of Congress than marching in the streets. But maybe that fact positions it to be more relevant today than ever. After all, while the netroots are rallying a throwback fight over a segregated swimming pool, the NAACP is suing banks for targeting blacks with the subprime loans that broke the world.

Jealous has more than once deployed a rhetorical tool he used again in his flat keynote Monday. He first stokes the listener by harking back to the glorious moment of Jan. 20. Then he pivots and launches into the hard facts that didn’t change on Jan. 21—that he woke up in the most incarcerated generation in history, for instance. His challenge is to make this absolutely relevant message about justice as compelling as his elders made their battle for rights.

Kai Wright is a senior writer for The Root.