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An Open Letter to Trent Lott
July 17, 2001
by Myra Bronstein

Senator Trent Lott
487 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Lott,

I want you to know that you are truly an inspiration. Now that you have called for an IRS "review" of the NAACP's tax status, in a blatant retaliatory snit for their frankness about Bush's obvious racism, I have joined the NAACP. I had been contemplating this action ever since the GOP blocked African Americans from voting, as part of the successful strategy to steal the presidency. Not only was I devastated by the loss of our democratic process, I was outraged that fellow citizens were used en masse to deprive Americans of our most basic rights. And yet it was your bullying threats to use a branch of government to punish citizens for speaking out that spurred me to join the NAACP.

I must say that so far I'm thrilled to be a member. The first thing I did was read Chairman Bond's great speech. Incidentally, for the befuddled Ari Fleischer's of the GOP, who rant that remarks such as Mr. Bond's were not made "when Kweisi Mfume was NAACP president,'' um, Mr. Mfume is currently NAACP President & CEO as he has been since 1995. Mr. Bond has been NAACP Chairman since 1998. I guess no one briefed Fleisher on these late-breaking developments. But then this ignorance of the leadership structure of the NAACP, an organization that has worked for equality for 92 years, is typical of the utter disregard your party displays for their goals and members.

Both leaders dared to exercise their First Amendment rights at the NAACP's annual convention recently. Among Chairman Bond's remarks that led you to sic the IRS on them:

"In the Sunshine State, which cast a long shadow over Election 2000, more than a million African-Americans voted, accounting for more than 15 percent of the total vote, a state record. But we know that the black share of the vote - in Florida and elsewhere - should have been higher. And we know the consequences could not have been greater. Witness after witness told the sorry story of voter suppression and nullification in Florida at NAACP hearings after the election. They described police stops near polling places, racially motivated voter purges, demands for multiple forms of identification from persons who had voted for decades, long-time voters' names missing from the rolls, and other examples of black votes prevented from being counted. The US Commission on Civil Rights has found that African-American voters in Florida were nearly ten times more likely than white voters to have their ballots rejected.

These tactics weren't restricted to Florida. Nationally, more than 2 million presidential votes went uncounted, and more ballots were discarded in Illinois than in Florida. And these tactics weren't restricted to black precincts. Other minority voters in Florida and elsewhere suffered as well..We heard before the election, 'Your vote counts!' We learned after the election that your vote might not be counted. This is unacceptable. This is un-American."

Among Mr. Mfume's comments that exposed them to possible IRS retaliation:

"We so desperately need men and women in and out of government through all walks of life who understand what it means to stand up and to speak out for that which is right, and to fight back against that which is wrong. To mean it when we say racism and sexism and anti-Semitism are wrong. To know as a matter of critical fact that black bigotry is just as cruel and evil as white bigotry and that bigots come in all colors. To understand in our heart of hearts that gay bashing, union bashing, immigrant basing, city bashing and people bashing deplete us as a nation and rob us of that precious rendezvous that we have with destiny."

At the risk of incurring a vengeful IRS audit of my own for daring to exercise free speech, their remarks make me proud to be a member. Every word they speak is the truth. I hope that everyone who recognizes the truth of their words joins the NAACP. As Chairman Bond said in closing: "The NAACP has a deep soul. And we have a deep voice - speaking truth to power!"

Myra Bronstein


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