It’s Time for a Merger: NAACP and Mainstream America Protecting the Civil Rights of All Americans

When Berwyn Heights, Md. Mayor Cheye Calvo found himself sitting on the floor of his home, handcuffed to his distraught mother-in-law during a brazen no-knock raid by Prince George’s County sheriff's deputies last week, he must have thought he was channeling the ghost of a runaway slave.

And he must have experienced a state beyond shock as the police proceeded to shoot his beloved Labrador retrievers to death, when, according to him, they never posed a threat to anyone. The dogs were shot, in his words, merely “for sport.” After all, the young, married mayor had no idea what the police were looking for, and why their business in his home required such a hasty, overbearing and potentially fatal confrontation.

As it turns out, the police had the wrong guy, and hadn't bothered to fully check their facts before raiding his home; an understandable mistake in the course of busy police work. What's unacceptable, however, is that the police executed a warrantless no-knock raid that resulted in the deaths of the mayors’ dogs. And, to add insult to injury, the police cleared Calvo of any wrongdoing, but flatly refused to apologize to him and his family for the emotional distress they caused. No-knock warrants, as they are called, are a procedure that became widely controversial after the death of a 94-year-old African-American grandmother in Atlanta, who, fearing that her home was being robbed, shot once at the plainclothes policemen charging through her door, and died tragically in a hail of return gunfire.

Interestingly, the local chapter of the NAACP rushed to the mayor’s aid, decrying the raid as an unconstitutional violation of his civil rights. Not surprising, you might say. After all, the NAACP has a long and storied history of defending civil rights — for black people. In this case, the victim was white.

The fact that the victim was a white, middle-class male, living in a white, middle-class neighborhood illustrates the fact that civil rights are not just a racial issue — but a matter of liberty and freedom for all Americans. For an organization that has declined in significance in recent decades, with no major policy or grassroots agenda worthy of note, this new role, protector of the rights of all Americans, could give it new relevance.


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