Commentary

Saunders: NAACP wrong for aligning itself with big-soda pushers

Bsaunders@newsobserver.comMarch 18, 2013 

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Denise Gray holds two extra large soft drinks from an area fast food chain on June 1, 2012 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City. In an attempt to fight obesity, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to implement a ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts. The ban has proved controversial with many people saying it will not decrease obesity and will be a further erosion of personal choice.

SPENCER PLATT — Getty Images

Over the years, local chapters of the NAACP have made some boneheaded moves, moves that had even longtime admirers wondering “Golly gee whiz. What’s going on over there?”

To wit: In 1986, the Beverly Hills chapter protested the execrable movie “The Color Purple” for its depiction of black men onscreen, but then protested even more vociferously when the movie didn’t win an Oscar. The NAACP righted that “wrong” by awarding the movie and its stars its Image Award.

The late gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson and R. Kelly all were nominated for or won Image Awards while being investigated for or charged with sexual offenses. R. even won one this year.

See. Golly gee whiz.

The New York chapter’s latest misstep eclipses those, though. Last week, when the soda companies protested and ultimately defeated New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s proposal to ban supersized cups of soda, the NAACP was one of the soda companies’ staunchest allies.

Yet, at a time when blacks suffer from obesity and diabetes – we call it “the sugar” – at far higher incidences than any other group, it is morally irresponsible for a chapter of our greatest civil rights organization to climb into bed with the American Beverages Association in this fight.

More likely to be obese

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health reported in 2010 that blacks as a whole were 1.4 times more likely to be obese than whites, that four of five black women are obese or overweight and that black girls are 80 percent more likely to be obese than white girls.

Hmmm, so what could have led to such a questionable alliance?

Did the New York chapter feel that Bloomberg was infringing upon citizens’ rights, or did it fear that its profitable relationship with the soda makers could be jeopardized and the money spigot could dry up?

I’m putting my money on the money.

It’s important to note that these logic-defying stances are made by local NAACP chapters, not the national one. A few years ago, Chairman Julian Bond called me on the telephone and rightfully castigated me for not making that distinction in criticizing something dumb done by a local chapter.

The New York chapter said it sided with soda makers in this fight because minority-owned businesses would suffer if they couldn’t sell giant, sugar-laden drinks.

Well, guess who suffers if they do?

Can’t have it both ways

The NAACP is not the only entity guilty of schizophrenia. So are many of y’all, dear readers.

First, some of you begrudge even a penny in health care to the poor whom you demonize, yet you likewise demonize Bloomberg’s government for trying to limit the very preventable harm we do to ourselves.

Sorry, old pals o’ mine, but neither the NAACP nor you can have it both ways.

Should government be restricting our purchase of legal products? Only when it comes to that cold medicine that people use to make meth. If, however, you argue that people have a right to eat and drink what and as much as they want, you have to be ready to help pay for that “freedom.”

As scientists noted in my column Monday, people will mindlessly eat and drink as much food or beverage as you set in front of them. Why do you think movie theaters can sell those insanely large cups of soda that you have to dive into, swim a couple of laps in and then sip your way out of?

Because theaters are dark and no one can see us being pigs.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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