COMMENTARY: The NAACP is Trying to Serve Two Masters

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  • Is this the same NAACP that passionately backed President Obama’s health reform law?

    You know the law that stresses prevention as well as treatment? The one that, for many people, covers screenings for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease – maladies that disproportionately plague black people? The one that also covers counseling for things such as losing weight and eating healthy?

    From the looks of things, it seems that the New York chapter of that revered civil rights organization has decided that helping black people save their own lives comes second to helping soda sellers make a profit.

    The group recently sided with the American Beverage Association, which is challenging a New York City ban on the sale of sugar-sweetened drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces. Come March, delis, restaurants, fast-food places and even food carts will have to adhere to the ban – which Mayor Michael Bloomberg argues will help strike a blow against the city’s high obesity rates.

    Grocery stores and large convenience store chains such as 7-Eleven, however, are exempt – and that’s what worries the NAACP. It argues that the ban will hurt small business owners in black and Latino communities.

    Questions have arisen as to whether the NAACP, as well as the Hispanic Federation, is opposing the ban because of its ties to big soft drinks companies such as Coca-Cola.

    That’s a possibility.

    But in fairness, the NAACP is right to be concerned about how certain laws affect people of color. Some, in fact, even question whether the soda ban will even make a dent in the city’s obesity rate if people who crave super-sized drinks can simply go to a supermarket or 7-Eleven and buy their poison there.

    Me, I think the drink ban is a start – and if people can’t buy large sugary drinks conveniently, they’ll get used to it just like everyone eventually got used to indoor smoking bans.

    I also think that a better strategy for the NAACP, or at least a strategy that takes into account the health of the black people it claims to care about as well as the viability of the small business owners, would be to work with Bloomberg on closing the regulatory loophole that allows 7-Eleven to still sell oversized drinks, or to seek some other kind of equitable solution.

    A bad strategy is to outright oppose the soda ban to keep certain businesses thriving at the cost of black people dying.

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