The Tea Party made head-waves in late 2009 through organized protests against federal laws. In my eyes, they have become a political force to be reckoned with but with the current controversy that has surfaced, the may hinder their own progress to impact the political system.
The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is pointing fingers at the Tea Party for harboring racist elements within its political agendas and has asked them to renounce “ultra-nationalist and racist factions within the organization,” according to NAACP President Ben Jealous.
“For more than a year we’ve watched as Tea Party members have called congressmen the N-word, have called congressmen the F-word. We see them carry racist signs and whenever it happens, the membership tries to shirk responsibility,” Jealous said.
“If the Tea Party wants to be respected and wants to be part of the mainstream in this country, they have to take responsibility.”
Jealous specifically pointed to signs at rallies portraying President Obama as a witch doctor, and to claims made by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., that Tea Party protesters opposing health care reform hurled racial slurs at them according to an online news post from ABC.
“They need to be unequivocal and they need to be responsible and get the bigots out of their organization. It’s that simple,” Jealous added.
Tea Party leaders have denied allegations of racism and argue that there is no proof to support the NAACP’s claims. Conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart even offered $100,000 to anyone who could produce an audio recording or video footage of the “N-word” being hurled at Rep. Lewis and other members of Congress.
The St. Louis Tea Party coalition passed a resolution of its own condemning the NAACP for “hypocritically engaging in the very conduct it purports to oppose.” The resolution calls on the NAACP to withdraw its resolution. It even urges the IRS to reconsider its tax-exempt status of the NAACP because of what the Tea Party coalition dubbed the organization’s “habitual partisan political behavior.”
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin also weighed on the issue and stepped in to protect the Tea Party’s integrity.
“The charge that Tea Party Americans judge people by the color of their skin is false, appalling, and is a regressive and diversionary tactic,” according to a statement Sarah Palin on Facebook. As a result she has asked Barack Obama to “refudiate” such racist claims.
Organizer of the Tea Party Express Mark Williams discredited the NAACP and accused them of being racist themselves. He also went as far as to write a satirical letter on a blog post that ridiculed the NAACP.
It was purportedly written to Abraham Lincoln by “colored people,” saying in part: “We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!”
Williams meant to make a satirical point but the letter was deemed offensive because it made sweeping generalizations that African-Americans are lazy and ignorant. As a result, Williams was expelled from the National Tea Party Federation led by Co-Founder of the New York City Tea Party David Webb. However, Webb stated the letter was offensive but not racist.
Webb also stated NAACP’s claims are agenda based and that the Tea Party can not be responsible for all its members’ beliefs.
“I think the NAACP in its march toward irrelevancy as an organization, needs an enemy to maintain its power base,” Webb said.
Webb was then asked about the signs and posters that compared Barack Obama to monkeys and brandish the N-word in several Tea Party rallies.
“They are offensive, they don’t belong there but there will also be fringe elements,” Webb said on CNN before he expelled Williams from the National Tea Party Federation on July 18, 2010.
In all fairness to the Tea Party I haven’t actually seen signs from protesters that have specifically used the N-word. In addition there have been no video or audio showing Tea Party members hurling the N-word at John Lewis. In truth I haven’t seen much enthusiasm from the NAACP to battle the racist statements from the New Black Panther Party to “kill crackers and their white babies,” so the NAACP could be guilty of partisan claims.
As a result, everybody organization needs to fold up their sleeves and take responsibility. The NAACP should also go to all lengths to condemn all acts of racism not only when it affects African-Americans. There have been too many instances where they get criticized for a selective bashing of racism and that is racist in a sense.
In addition just because Tea Party leaders say they haven’t witnessed any racial elements within their groups does not make it dismissible. The fact is there have been signs that have racial slurs and ignorant messages. Some include “Send Obama back to Kenya,” “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery” and “The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s ovens,”
Note, the Tea Party is not a racist movement but I believe the Tea Party is more at fault. The fact is there are racist elements within the Tea Party, and all Tea Party leaders should address that. Like it or not the Tea Party has moved from a grassroots movement to a notable and well respected organization and they have a social responsibility to maintain a positive image. It would be in their bests interests to take such action if they want to have a strong influence in the upcoming elections in November. If they want to get back to the important issues involving health care and limited government they need to deal with the internal problems that they are having. Who will take them seriously when they have bigots among themselves putting up extreme posters that compare Barack Obama to a monkey and make threats to hang congress members? Personally, I don’t think they have heard of the saying one bad apple spoils the bunch.