NEW ORLEANS — The Bush administration should focus on racial profiling, election reform and racial disparities in the death penalty, NAACP president Kweisi Mfume said Saturday.
"We recognize that this administration will be with us for four years," Mfume said at a press conference kicking off the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention. "We seek to work with it where we can, but we will vehemently fight for what we believe in even if it is against the beliefs of this administration."
President Bush, though invited, will not speak at the convention due to a scheduling conflict, NAACP officials said. Instead, Bush sent a video greeting that will be played sometime this week.
About 20,000 NAACP members and delegates are expected to attend the group's 92nd annual convention, which ends Thursday.
Mfume called for election reform and a "meaningful and quantifiable approach" to racial profiling. He said inequities in capital punishment that disproportionately affect blacks and Hispanics must be addressed.
"The administration gets a mixed report on civil rights, social justice and criminal justice issues," Mfume said.
Mfume also said delegates will discuss whether to recommend an economic boycott of Mississippi to urge the state remove the Confederate battle symbol from its flag. Mississippians voted overwhelmingly in April to keep the flag.
Mfume met Thursday with Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and other state leaders and said he had an "eerie feeling" as he walked into the Statehouse, past the flag. He recalled seeing the flag as a child, having mud thrown at him and being pelted with racial obscenities.
"I thought as an adult, after having lived for 50 years, I'd gotten past it," Mfume said.
"There's just something about walking past that flag and that proximity that has an effect... on most African Americans in this country, most Jewish Americans and most good-minded Americans who recognize what that flag has traditionally stood for, the hate and the bigotry."
Mfume said the group will also focus on education, economic development, criminal justice and foreign policy during the convention. It will also release a five-year strategic plan — the first time such a document has been created.
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