Women call for NAACP to expel member over harassment (copy)

Women wear blue in support of sexual harassment victims Sept. 18 as Bishop Tonyia Rawls calls for the national NAACP to expel a N.C. NAACP member who was forced to resign his position following sexual harassment charges.

#MeToo and the NAACP

Of all entities, you would expect the NAACP to do right by the fair treatment of women.

But the nation’s oldest civil rights organization doesn’t always practice what it preaches, a group of its leaders said in a news conference last week in Greensboro.

About a dozen female NAACP members, as well as some men, came forward at Trinity AME Zion Church to challenge the organization to better address workplace harassment and discrimination.

Their complaints were sparked by a sexual harassment allegation against a supervisor in the NAACP state office. But the issue has mushroomed into a broader movement. And rightly so.

“This is not an easy situation or moment for any of us,” said Bishop Tonyia Rawls, a state board member from Charlotte. “What we know is that we can no longer stand in the shadows.”

What the women asked for was reasonable, and incredibly, not already in place: specifically, that the national NAACP, which has pressed Congress to pass laws against workplace harassment and discrimination, set similar rules and policies for itself.

The North Carolina NAACP has such policies; the national office does not. Yet, according to the organization’s bylaws, only the national office can discipline a member.

The women expressed frustration that the national NAACP president, Derrick Johnson, still has not addressed their concerns, even though the woman who alleged harassment in the North Carolina office came forward two years ago.

The Rev. William Barber II, who was president of the state organization at the time of the allegations, appears to have addressed them urgently. Barber ordered a five-month investigation by an outside attorney and a law professor that determined at least two instances of sexual harassment.

The target of the complaint resigned during the investigation, the female leaders said last week.

But he continued to be an active member and to attend some of the same events and programs as his accuser.

In a statement released Friday, Barber made clear his support for the women.

“Just as we are avowed anti-racists,” Barber said, “we must be avowed anti-sexists.

“Women’s leadership has constituted the backbone, heart, head, and the very foundation of the NAACP.”

No word yet from the national office.

And its silence speaks volumes.

Risky behavior

The president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has been charged with driving while impaired, reckless driving and misdemeanor child abuse after an accident, which allegedly was related to alcohol use.

According to Tribune News Service, Patrick Conway strayed from his lane and struck a commercial vehicle. An officer on the scene of the accident described Conway as smelling of alcohol and unsteady on his feet. Conway’s eyes were red and bloodshot, the officer reported, and his speech was slurred. Conway refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test.

His daughters, who are both minors, were subjected to “substantial risk of physical injury ... by operating a motor vehicle while impaired,” the arrest warrant said. Conway’s license was revoked for 30 days and he is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 18.

Meanwhile, his company is standing behind him. The nonprofit insurer said in a statement released last week that, after “careful consideration,” its board has “decided that Patrick’s strong leadership will continue to be an asset and he will remain as President and CEO.

“Patrick has been a great leader ... fighting to improve the quality of health services, lower costs, and deliver an overall exceptional experience for our customers.”

Beyond keeping his job, Conway should count his blessings that he, his daughters and other motorists emerged from the incident uninjured.

What he is alleged to have done was beyond irresponsible and we hope he learns from it.

There is no small irony in a health care executive being so careless with his own health, while also putting at risk the lives of others.

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