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Skin color not a requirement for membership

February 25, 2002|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Bob Winget is white - "I'm not a person of color, unless you count pink," he said - but he feels at home as a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

His roots are in 1960s activism.

He belonged to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a protest group that held voter registration drives in the South, and the Congress on Racial Equality, another civil rights group.

When Winget settled outside Shepherdstown, W.Va., later in life, he noticed the Jefferson County NAACP branch taking a familiar, aggressive approach to civil rights, so he joined.

He has sat on the executive committee for about three years.

"African Americans have done more for this white boy than white folks have ...," he said. "I don't think it's a coincidence that these are the people who have been victims for such a long time."

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Winget is president of Friends Advancing Intercultural Relations, which formed about 10 years ago in part because of the beating of Rodney King. FAIR and NAACP often work together on causes.

Winget is not unique in the Jefferson County NAACP chapter. Thirty to 40 percent of the members are white, including a few other executive committee members, chapter President George Rutherford said.

The Berkeley County NAACP chapter has "more than a couple" of white members, including some local and state elected officials, chapter President Taylor Perry said.

James Irvin, who took over as president of the Washington County NAACP chapter last October, said he hasn't seen any white people at meetings, but he has heard of one life member who is white.

Nationally, the NAACP has 500,000 members, but doesn't disclose the racial breakdown, said spokeswoman Jeri Jones at the group's headquarters in Baltimore.

All three local chapter presidents agreed that skin color isn't important in the fight against discrimination.

"We try and get involved in anything that is racially significant, any injustice," Rutherford said.

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