(CNSNews.com) - Comedian/activist Dick Gregory told the 97th annual convention of the NAACP in Washington, D.C., this week that the problems faced by African Americans are caused by several factors, including an "insane, racist system" that favors whites and pollution that "turns ordinary people into violent criminals."
"We live in a system so insane that once you give them permission to determine public policy, they will kill you if they can get past your spirit," Gregory said, without specifying who he meant by "them." See Video
Gregory acknowledged that considerable progress has been made in civil rights since the 1960s, when "every time you went to Mississippi, none of us knew if we was coming back."
However, much of the racial prejudice of the 1960s is still in place, he asserted. "Whole lots of folks, not just rednecks, will not refer to a black person as 'Mister' or 'Ms.,' but they got a candy bar named Mister Goodbar, and the candy bar's darker than me, but they call it 'Mister' and call me 'Boy,'" the activist stated.
To overcome the "white racist system," blacks need to undergo "a mindset change," Gregory said.
"White, rich, middle-class children have as much or more truancy and high school dropouts than poor blacks in the ghetto," he stated. "You wake up feeling negative about yourself, and they feed you something negative."
Gregory claimed that "white teenagers in rural America are 83 times more likely to use crack than a black in a large, urban city, but they make you think it's black because they paint a black face on it, and you grab it." He did not specify the source for the statistics cited.
The tactics used by racists today in America have changed from the ones used during the civil rights battles of the 1960s, Gregory said. "The difference in the battlefield then and now," according to Gregory, is "what they would do to me physically, they're doing to your mind.
Gregory also pointed to pollution as a source of difficulties for blacks.
"The FBI has documents on the relationship between lead exposure and homicide," he said, but "nobody knows about it," he asserted.
Citing an FBI file by Roger Masters of Dartmouth College -- whose study found that criminal activity is higher in areas with high lead and manganese pollution -- Gregory charged that "polluted water can cause brain damage that turns ordinary people into violent criminals."
He alleged that the racist system exploits this issue. "They convince you that I'm just a heathen and I murder just 'cause I want to murder," but "I murder because something's in my food, something's in my water," Gregory said.
"Malt liquor is made by white beer companies but only sold in black neighborhoods, and you don't get suspicious?" he asked. "They put a thing in it called manganese, and once you get so much manganese in you, you will kill your momma, but they've got you believing that's normal for you to act that way." See Video
Gregory did not cite the source for his allegation that malt liquor manufacturers include manganese as an ingredient.
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Gregory is known for having strong opinions and expressing them freely.
During an Aug. 6, 2005, march in Atlanta commemorating the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, the activist criticized the U.S. as "the most dishonest, ungodly, unspiritual nation that ever existed in the history of the planet."
While discussing those comments on the "Hannity & Colmes" program on the Fox News Channel two days later, Gregory referred to a Cybercast News Service reporter as a "white boy." Gregory later apologized for that remark.
However, during Tuesday's membership luncheon, the comedian/activist discussed politicians only as victims of the "white system."
"I live in a country where [former Bush administration Secretary of State] Colin Powell can go to New York and can't get a cab," Gregory quipped.
"Your education don't mean nothing," he added. "Condoleezza Rice got more Ph.D.s than this president's whole cabinet, and they call her 'Condee,' and she don't see nothing wrong with it."
Gregory also noted that blacks cause some of their own problems. "Eighty-seven percent of everybody in America that should be on kidney dialysis machines is black folks," he stated. "What blows my kidneys out is resentment, anger, bitterness. You walk around mad -- angry at this person, angry at that person -- and you don't hurt nobody but yourself."
The work of the NAACP, he said, is vital to the black community. "Just because you're black, you're not qualified to deal with this white, racist system," he said. "That's why you're stupid if you don't come to groups like the NAACP, who've been dealing with it for years."
Gregory added that the social progress of the past 40 years can be attributed to the fact that "the civil rights bill that came through didn't say 'For Negroes Only.'"
"If you want to know who you are, the next time you get on an airplane -- because the only white woman who could be a stewardess 40 years ago had to look like something that came out of the center of Playboy magazine -- you can all claim today that old, ugly, short, fat, white stewardess," Gregory declared.
"We liberated her!" he said. "Not her white brother, not her husband, not the white Marines, not the United States president," he added. "We liberated that white woman, and they haven't even said thanks." See Video
David Almasi, director of Project 21, a conservative African-American group, told Cybercast News Service that "Mr. Gregory represents an outmoded line of thinking in the black community."
"Younger blacks who have grown up in the wake of the civil rights era and those who participated in the civil rights movement and recognize the gains that were made no longer look for racists under their beds," Almasi stated.
"I guess Mr. Gregory was out of the room on Monday when NAACP President Bruce Gordon told convention attendees that black Americans should eschew 'victim-like thinking' and take advantage of the opportunities available to all Americans," he said.
"And please note that I used 'Mister' in addressing his comments," Almasi added.
Make media inquiries or request an interview with Randy Hall.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.
E-mail a comment or news tip to Randy Hall.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.