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No common ground

In "Refusing to Go Away" [July 18], N.C. Libertarian Party Chair Sean Haugh claims that while he was looking forward to working with Curtis Gatewood, he "wondered how successful Libertarians and NAACP activists would be at finding a common message." After meeting a few of them, he went on to say, "We wonder out loud why it seems so hard for whites and blacks to work together."

My response to that (as a member of the Raleigh-Apex branch of the NAACP) is that all potential collaborators are not created equal. There certainly are some white organizations with whom we could cooperate toward our liberation. The ACLU, for example, has been doing great work for us on racial profiling and the war on drugs for the last two years (see But the Libertarian Party is not an organization with which African Americans can in good faith cooperate, and even if he did not choose to divulge it to the Durham NAACP, Haugh knows exactly why this is: The NAACP supports anti-discrimination laws, and the Libertarian party opposes them. This is a plank of their national platform:

Discrimination imposed by government has caused a multitude of problems. Anti-discrimination laws create the same problems. While we do not advocate private discrimination, we do not support any laws which attempt to limit or ban it.

The right to trade includes the right not to trade--for any reasons whatsoever; the right of association includes the right not to associate, for exercise of this right depends upon mutual consent.

This is basically the same opinion that five conservative Supreme Court justices recently held about the Boy Scouts of America. When a group of entrepreneurs founds an entity that caters to or recruits from the public at large, should it be thought of as a private association or as a public accomodation? In the case of BSA vs. Dale, the conservatives chose the former. But if that rationale were extended to owners of movie theaters, hotels and restaurants, it would fundamentally repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination in public accomodations. Recognizing this threat, the NAACP filed an amicus brief in this case, supporting both James Dale and the unanimous finding by the New Jersey Supreme Court that the Boy Scouts were a public accomodation, and therefore subject to state laws prohibiting them from discriminating against James Dale for being gay. The Libertarians, as the platform plank shows, take the opposite position.

The NAACP is not about cooperating with people who are opposed to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The fact that the state is arresting, undereducating and executing us disproportionately, while it is certainly unfortunate, is not grounds for us to cooperate with Libertarian attempts to weaken and de-legitimize the state in general. As a people oppressed by both poverty and unpopularity, African Americans need a strong, well-respected state--especially in the judicial branch--as a counterweight to the power of concentrated capital and as a defender of our individual rights against majoritarian hostility, in the public and private spheres. Libertarians are actually not about defending the rights of individual people; they are about defending the rights of individual dollars. And for those us us who don't have enough dollars, that is no defense.

The accounts of racial profiling and police brutality [July 12] may have shocked some people. I can't say I was one of them. These have been such a common occurence as far back as I can remember--even though we haven't always had names for them--that I am ashamed to say they begin to sound like casualty reports from a war. We become brutalized by the sheer magnitude of the problem.

There's more than a little irony in being a white man raising black kids. I have to tell my own youngsters, for their own good, to make white folk prove they are reliable before they trust them and to fear the cops, to keep their hands empty and visible if they are ever stopped.

I am concerned when I read about alliances between Libertarians and the NAACP. For those of us who are in solidarity with the struggles of oppressed nationalities, there must be a high index of suspicion toward a political orientation that denies the roots of that oppression.

Libertarians regard racism as an individual pathology instead of institutionalized white supremacy. They deny the existence of national oppression. In particular, they deny the historical symbiosis of capitalism and racism. Many of our steadier allies don't seem to grasp that, either. That's the step we haven't taken in looking at ruthless symptoms like police brutality and a racist criminal justice system. These symptoms are traceable to a systemic problem. Capitalism and racism are historically bound together, like a Gordian knot. There is no possibility of erasing the latter without disposing of the former.

So while there may be an advantage in the NAACP's making this alliance with Libertarians, there is wisdom in the Haitian proverb: "Just because your enemy helps you out of a well to get at the water, it doesn't mean he is not still your enemy when you are out." Be very careful.

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