The last night of the NAACP’s 77th annual Georgia State Convention in Cumberland ended with an, at times, pointed keynote address from Bishop Reginald Thomas Jackson, whose district includes over 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia.
“Donald Trump is not the problem in this country,” Jackson said. “He’s only a symptom of the problem. The problem is there is 35% of this nation’s population that he speaks for. And he’s right no matter what he says, no matter what he does, they’re going to stick with him. 35% of this nation’s population is racist. Racist. I’m tempted to go to the RNC convention in Charlotte next August. For some of y’all that means the Republican National Convention. For me, it means the Racist National Convention. … I believe that most Americans in this country are not racist, but let’s be real, there is a group that are, so we’ve got a fight on our hands. And the challenge for the NAACP and the black church and other groups is we’ve got a challenge of getting our people to be aware and to become involved in this fight.”
Jackson said there are over 42 million African-Americans in the United States, but the NAACP has about 500,000 members. He said the average African-American is 31 years old, and young people simply don’t see the group as relevant.
“Most blacks in the United States today were born after the Civil Rights Movement, after Dr. King and Malcolm X, after Bull Connor, George Wallace and Lester Maddox, they were born after water hoses and bombs,” he said. “They have not passed this way before. And so the challenge is not that they don’t want to fight, but part of the challenge is that we, those of you my age and older, we have not passed down to them, our history and our story.”
Jackson said there are still structural inequalities that must be dealt with, including sentencing disparities between the races.
“When blacks were the ones who was dealing with the drugs, they called it a crime and put us in jail,” he said. “Today, when most of the drug problem in this country is white, it’s no longer a crime, now it’s a health problem?”
Jackson threw in another barb at the president in a remark about immigration.
“It’s estimated by the year 2040, the majority population in this country will no longer be white, it will be people of color,” he said. “So the problem is, they’ve got to try to find a way to keep people of color out of this country. And to be frank with you, I don’t understand why Donald Trump got a problem with it. He’s a man of color. He’s orange.”
Jackson said older African-Americans need to do a better job of explaining their fight to the younger generations, and he also put some blame on the black church, which he said has become too “wimpy.”
“We have become part of what I call the obsession of praise,” he said. “Everything in the church is ‘praise God.’ Usher gives you a fan, Praise God. Bring you a glass of water, praise God. Everything, praise God. Brothers and sisters, let me suggest to you, there is a praise that turns God off, that displeases God.”
The bishop said praising God is great, but he said striving for justice is the best way to please God.
“God wants us not only to praise him, God also wants us to serve him,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, we do our best work not on Sunday morning when the church is gathered, the church does its best work after the benediction, when you leave the Lord’s house, go into the Lord’s world and make a difference in the Lord’s name. The church at its best is not the church gathered, the church at its best is the church scattered.”
The convention wrapped up with a worship service Sunday morning. It was the third time Cobb County has hosted the convention, which drew in delegates from across Georgia.
Jeriene Grimes, head of the Cobb chapter of the NAACP, said the convention was a hit.
“It was one of our best ever,” she said. “Commentary from the delegates was they were really excited about coming to Cobb, just from hearing their comments, we exceeded their expectations. We got a lot of work done, there’s still a lot of work to do coming up into the 2020 election and 2020 census, but we’re fired up and we’re ready to go.”
Grimes said she estimates over 700 people came through the convention, and she was proud to see a number of Cobb elected officials and other residents come out.
“I think we had one of the largest representations of citizens, city officials, members, volunteers come. I really want to say I appreciate living and working in a community that, when called to action, people respond positively.”