I had a teacher in high school social studies that liked to say things that he thought were controversial.
One thing he said that stuck with me over the years is that the primary goal of any institution is to first justify its existence, and that its next priority was to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. Over the years I have given this a lot of thought and I am still not sure that I buy into it because as with anything there are exceptions, but it is something I continue to ponder.
This is my second column in this space, and you might consider what I say here to be controversial.
Several weeks ago, my wife and I attended the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People banquet that was held at the Storer Ballroom on the campus of Shepherd University. It was a great event — the food was great, as was the company. We sat at a table that included Jill and Kelvin Upson.
Ms. Upson was at the time a candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates. I was too. I listened to the keynote speech by Reverend Ernest Lyles. He is an excellent speaker. The recurring theme throughout the speech: if you are a successful person of color, you did not get there on your own — the NAACP made that happen.
I support the goals of the NAACP and I grew up in a family that supported those goals. However, I also grew up believing that we are all individuals, that we succeed or fail on our own merits and that we are responsible for our own actions. I would humbly submit that my wife, who is a person of color, has earned the success that she has achieved in life and that she is the one who made that happen.
It is interesting to note that Jill Upson, who is also a person of color, sought but did not receive the group’s endorsement, the NAACP did not make that happen. She did, however, receive attention from an unexpected and unsolicited source. According to one newspaper account: “Mother and military wife Jill Upson, candidate for delegate in the 65th District, recently gained national attention when she was chosen by Black Entertainment Television as one of the country’s ‘Republicans to Watch.’”
For those who are unfamiliar with Black Entertainment Television, it was founded by Robert Johnson more than 30 years ago. Its success made Mr. Johnson the world’s first black billionaire. His success story is an affirmation of what makes America the great country that it is.
Robert Johnson is an entrepreneur and he is also a pioneer. He has moved on from BET and started yet another enterprise.
We can learn much from his example. In order to improve our standard of living, we as West Virginians need to remove the barriers to entrepreneurship – and that includes black entrepreneurship. West Virginia is in short supply of entrepreneurs like Robert Johnson.
It is my ardent belief that we need to break down barriers and look past the labels. I wonder if we will ever finally run out of “firsts.” And speaking of firsts, I am not sure if the NAACP has ever endorsed a Republican for the West Virginia Legislature. The group had an opportunity to endorse a woman of color this time around and they demurred.
One thing that is certain is that there are criteria in the selection process of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with regard to the endorsement of political candidates that transcends color.
In a way, they have broken another color barrier — another first. Maybe the NAACP is saying that we as a society are at that moment in history where the color of a person’s skin has finally become irrelevant. Wouldn’t that be nice?