Danatus King, president of the New Orleans branch of the NAACP, announced his plans last week to challenge Mayor Mitch Landrieu in next year's municipal election. There's precedent to a local civil rights leader seeking elected office. The best example is Dutch Morial, who held King's position years before he became the first black mayor of New Orleans.
That history notwithstanding, there's still something worrisome about King's announced candidacy. The NAACP has been a persistent critic of the Landrieu administration, especially on police brutality, but now that its leader is challenging the mayor, one has to wonder whether the organization's criticisms of Landrieu were less about bedrock principle and more about King's political ambition.
We shouldn't have to wonder. Though many politicians have passed through its ranks, when we think of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, we ought to think of as above mere politics. We ought to think of it as the organization that found lynching intolerable, Jim Crow intolerable, that found impediments to the ballot box and police brutality intolerable.
It is true that on police brutality, the local NAACP branch has not let the Landrieu administration off the hook. The problem is it didn't put previous administrations on it.
Nobody who has observed the administrations of police superintendents Eddie Compass, Warren Riley and Ronal Serpas can honestly say that police brutality became a problem when Serpas became head of the New Orleans Police Department. It looks to me like the problem of black people being harmed and even killed by the police was at least as bad before, if not much worse.