Perhaps I’m naïve, but I think that most people expect ministers to tell the truth. But the head of the North Carolina NAACP, Rev. William Barber, seems to have a lot of trouble with that qualification.
In a WRAL on-line forum, Barber was recently called to task for his organization’s guilt-presuming approach to the lacrosse case. Here is the question, and his response, in its entirety. My discussion is below.
The NAACP and other civil rights organizations and leaders were very outspoken in support of Crystal G. Magnum during the Duke Lacrosse rape investigation. When it became apparent that her allegations were not supported by the evidence, why didn't these same organizations/leaders offer apologies to the wrongly accused? – Roger Williams,
I’m sorry that you have been misinformed about our position. I know, however, that is easy especially in a time when so many can say through the Internet what they think you stand for without truly hearing or reading what you actually said. Below is a copy of our position.
Also, remember we supported the attorney general having a special investigation and prosecutor. The uniqueness of the NAACP is that we have been there when black girls/women have been raped and there were no consequences and when black boys/men have been accused of rape when they were innocent. With that history in mind, we have always called for fairness.
The following was our official public position that very few media outlets chose to print in its entirety:
1. We must denounce any code of silence, which seeks to inhibit ascertaining the facts.
2. We must have deep compassion and concern for the survivor and challenge any attempts to demean or destroy her rather than to seek and ascertain the truth.
3. We must ensure the D.A.’s investigation is completed thoroughly and promptly and that serious consequences be meted out if the allegations are proven. These allegations include: sexual violence/gang rape, racial slandering/hate crimes, underage alcohol use, and any prior history of racial bigotry and intimidation must be fully investigated. We do not want a rush to judgment or a delay of justice. Duke should be conducting its own thorough investigation. Who was at the party? Who violated Duke’s Code that night? How many times had they violated the law or Duke’s Codes before?
4. We must monitor the legal process to insure justice is carried out in this investigation without special privilege or treatment to anyone. Our position as an organization interested in civil rights and community justice, is that the investigation of allegations are fair, meticulous, comprehensive, aggressive, and thorough.
5. Those who are calling for justice and fairness in the investigation must not be wrongly described as a “lynch mob” no matter how zealous [sic] one seeks to defend their client.
6. Those who want to ensure justice must insist there are no short cuts to justice. We demand that the alleged perpetrators have rights to be protected. We must also be prayerful if the allegations are true and for whoever committed these acts because they are suffering from a great sickness of the spirit and hatred for humanity.
7. We must face this investigation when all of the facts are in.
8. We must face the truth and the justice that the truth demands.
9. We must consider in the wake of all that has and will occur, how we repent, repair, restore, and move forward. We must not engage in retaliatory violence. Our faith must insist that hope can still be rise out of hurt, what is meant for evil can yet be turned to good, and out of tragedy can still come triumph.
10. We must recognize that in a moment like this moment we need the guidance of God and a moral compass, which keeps us focused on the fact that only the truth can set us free.
Two obvious questions:
1.Which of these 10 “principles” guided the NAACP’s decision to post on its website an 82-point memorandum of law that not only presumed guilt but also was riddled with outright factual errors that made it appear as if a crime could have occurred?
2.And why has an organization that claims to seek “the guidance of God and a moral compass, which keeps us focused on the fact that only the truth can set us free” not publicly apologized for this document, which the head of is legal redress committee produced?
Barber’s commentary raises other uncomfortable questions, to wit:
3. The reverend asks people to “remember we supported the attorney general having a special investigation and prosecutor.” By omitting a qualifying clause, Barber produced a misleading statement. An accurate statement from Barber would have asked people to “remember we supported the attorney general having a special investigation and prosecutor after Mike Nifong recused himself from the case.” Before that point, of course, the NAACP had never made such a demand, and the special advisor it appointed for the case, Irving Joyner, had consistently defended Nifong’s behavior.
4. If the NAACP believed it “must face this investigation when all of the facts are in,” why did the organization essentially reject the results of the AG’s report and call for a new investigation (which it would dominate)? That’s not facing the facts, it’s denying them.
5. In principle number two, the NAACP described Mangum as “the survivor”—a term used by “rape victim” groups to describe a victim of rape. Yet at the time when Barber outlined his “principles” in spring 2006, defense attorneys were adamantly denying that any attack occurred. So, by describing Mangum as “the survivor,” did not the state NAACP’s own principles presume guilt?
6. Barber’s “principles” contain the following two contradictor items: “We demand that the alleged perpetrators have rights to be protected” and “we must denounce any code of silence.” Even the most limited view of civil liberties would hold that the “rights” of “alleged perpetrators” include not speaking to police outside the presence of their attorneys. Yet at the time when Barber announced his “principles,” the “code of silence” claim had a specific meaning—that, as Nifong and his enablers had charged, the lacrosse players had enacted a “code of silence” and refused to speak with police. (Of course this was untrue: they had only postponed a meeting with police until they could consult with counsel.) So could Barber explain how his organization was “upholding its demand that the alleged perpetrators have rights to be protected” by “denounc[ing] any code of silence”?
7. Barber’s “principles” contain another clear contradiction: “We do not want a rush to judgment” and “those who are calling for justice and fairness in the investigation must not be wrongly described as a ‘lynch mob’ no matter how zealous [sic] one seeks to defend their client.” The potbangers—who, the reverend told us, can’t be referred to as a “lynch mob”—claimed their goal was “justice and fairness.” How was their behavior consistent with the NAACP’s stated opposition to a rush to judgment?
8. In light of NAACP “principle” number 8, when will the organization “face the truth” about its record in the lacrosse case?
9. Barber asserted, “Our position as an organization interested in civil rights and community justice, is that the investigation of allegations are fair, meticulous, comprehensive, aggressive, and thorough.” Before his recusal, no one from the state NAACP ever denounced Mike Nifong’s myriad ethical improprieties, and Joyner appeared to give a pass to the rigged lineup. How was that behavior consistent with the organization’s interest in civil rights and commitment to a “fair” investigation?
10. And, finally, Barber’s “principles” held, “We must face the truth and the justice that the truth demands.” How could Barber’s misleading response to WRAL be deemed consistent with that principle?