whites —the privilege of ehowing down at a Dallas McDonald’s.rnThomas would have had to have some white boss man —rnmaybe a do-good liberal —bring him his burger outside. I’ornthink of it is to shiver.rnBut, as we know, Jim Crow fell apart in the 60’s—pushedrnfrom outside, dismanded from within. (Dallas’s business community,rnnot the federal courts, ended segregation in local publicrnaccommodations, including burger joints.) Wliere does thatrnleave the NAACP? Laboring to rekindle its purpose —effectingrnfurther advancement of “colored people.” But what does “advancement”rnmean in an age without legal barriers to the generalrnenjoyment of human rights?rnNot a single Jim Crow law remains on the statute books.rnLynching—one such event, in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908,rnhelped launch the NAACP —is unknown today. (James Byrd’srnmurder-by-dragging in rural Texas, at the hands of three yahoos,rnhardly meets the legal definition of lynching.) On marches thernNAACP anyway. Its public expects no less, and in fact probablyrnexpects more, due to money and sex scandals that several yearsrnago brought down the organization’s gravy-train-riding leadership.rnIn, as president, came Maryland Congressman KweisirnMfume, determined to revitalize die NAACP in its arthriticrnold age. If ever a man demonstrated the principle of upwardrnmobility in the post-Jim Crow era, that man would bernMfume—known in his street-hustling, numbers-gaming youdirnas Frizzell “Pee Wee” Gray. Reformed, scrubbed up, and educated.rnPee Wee became Kweisi Mfume-or, as they supposedlyrnsay in West Africa, Conciuering Son of Kings. F.ventually, hernwas elected to Congress from Baltimore.rnAs the new moniker implies, Mfume is no shrinking violet.rnNot unlike the new leader of another semi-comatose liberal organizationrn—John Sweeney of the API ,-CIO — Mfume wants tornturn tilings around in a big way. The NAACP, he says, “hadrngotten comfortable, fat and lazy, living off a histor)’ long sincernremoved.” Time for change!rnWell, sure—but what kind of change? What does Mfumernbelieve today’s African-Americans need? Lots of things, itrnwould seem. Near tiie top of tiic list: not seeing the Confederaternbattle flag flapping over South Carolina’s statehouse—arndeep affront, as the NAACP depicts it, to black sensibilities; anrnugly reminder of an ugly past.rnAs mop-up operations in the civil-rights struggle go, this onerntakes prizes for irrelevance. Jobs? Hcaltli? Education? Crime?rnNever mind the daily frustrations of black children left semi-educated,rnor even less tiian semi-, by teacher-union members ofrnJohn Sweeney’s labor coalition. Never mind illegitimacy andrnfamilv breakup in tiic black communitv. Or the drug problem.rnOr AIDS.rnNo, sir—never mind! The job at hand is to get that flag loweredrn—that symbol, in Mfnme’s words, of “tiie most reprehensiblernaspects of American history.” Actually, as Mfume seems tornvisualize it, tiie overriding need of blacks is to see proud SouthrnCarolina noses rubbed in the dirt. Take tiiat for Fort Sumter!rnThis would obviously inspire whites and blacks to throw brotiierlyrnarms around each other and drive off togetiier into the sunset,rnheaded for the NASCAR races.rnTo further the campaign for brotherly love, and to make itsrnpoint about getting the “rebel” flag down, the NAACP last Januan-rn1 began a boycott of South Carolina. The idea is to steerrnan estimated $280 million in spending to out-of-state destinations.rnNo tips for black waiters and cab drivers; no chance forrnlocal black leaders to mix and mingle with out-of-state dignitariesrnand visitors at conventions of the National Urban Leaguernand the National Covernors Association. Not while that flagrnwaves over the eapitol!rnAnother notable Mfume campaign, resulting in what thernNAACP will certainly depict as victory, targeted the televisionrnnetworks. Mfume wanted more blacks on camera as well as off.rnNetwork representatives sat down witii flie NAACP to see whatrncoidd be worked out. The agreement with ABC is t’pical:rngrants to discover and support new writing and directing talent,rnsteps to expand the pool of available network on-air positions,rnmore contracts with black-owned businesses. Fox plans tornplace a minorit)’ writer on all its network productions. And sornon.rnEverybody and his dog sues everybody else these days, forrnboth social and economic gain. Originally, the NAACP madernits name in the courts. Wliy not go back to the well? So wernhave the NAACP suing the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Daytona,rnFlorida, for discrimination against guests attending the annualrnBlack College Remiion. Mfume also is challenging what herncalls a corporate pattern of discrimination at Adam’s Mark: lessrndesirable rooms and higher prices for blacks. A similar lawsuitrntakes aim at Cracker Barrel Old Countrv Store, Inc.rnKweisi Mfume’s America is arnnation that simply cannot repentrnenough. Jim Crow may be plantedrnin the cold, cold ground. Nevertheless,rnif we are going to have an NMCP, itrnhas got to raise money and hell alike.rnSpeaking of “aim,” tiicre has to be—there just has to be—arnclass-action suit concerning guns. Sure enough, the NAACP isrnsuing 100 gun manufacturers, 24 of them foreign. “We represent,”rnsays Mfume, “a significant constituency that is disproportionatelyrnaffected by gun violence”: which violence seems to bernthe fault of those who manufacture tiic weapons rather thanrnthose who shoot them at Mfume’s constituents.rnMoreover, just in case tiic federal bench should fail to heedrnsuch striking claims, Mfume has a fallback plan: He proposes arndeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, whereby the Court expandsrnthe number of clerkships available to women and minorities,rnwhom he obviously expects to agitate for NAACP positions. Tornmake his point, Mfume led a big demonstration outside thernCourt, successfully getting himself arrested.rnIt’s the old days all over again, Kweisi Mfume might suppose.rnBut of course it really isn’t. Jim Crow lies six feet under, andrn”colored people” have a variet}’ of challenges not easily susceptiblernof solution in tiie old manner: boycotts, lawsuits, and so on.rnOne looks at what flic NAACP is trying to do, and one says:rnHuh? For instance: Television may employ relatively fewrnblacks. On the oflier hand, that is not necessarily television’srnMAY 2000/1 7rnrnrn