Tea Parties Make Space for Bigots
By E.J. Dionne
WASHINGTON -- Good for the NAACP. We need an honest conversation about the role of race and racism in the tea party movement. Thanks to a resolution passed this week at the venerable organization's national convention, we'll get it.
The minute you say there are racist elements at the tea parties -- reflected in signs at rallies, billboards, and speeches from some of its major figures -- the pushback goes from cries of persecution to charges that those who are criticizing divisiveness are themselves the dividers.
So let's dispense with the obvious: Most of the opposition to President Obama comes from people who are against his policies, not his race. The tea party movement is motivated primarily by right-wing ideology, not by racism.
But guess what? Nothing the NAACP is saying contradicts this. Its contention is that there are clearly racist strains in the tea parties and that the movement's leaders and the politicians who profit from its activism should denounce them plainly and unequivocally.
Here's what Ben Jealous, the NAACP's president and CEO, asked of the tea party movement: "Expel the bigots and racists in your ranks or take the responsibility for them and their actions. We will no longer allow you to hide like cowards."
The NAACP is doing exactly what conservatives have done for decades in demanding that liberals and progressives separate themselves from left-wing extremists who trashed America, burned flags and praised foreign dictators. The racists are the tea partiers' flag-burners. It's fair to ask the democratic left to condemn extremism. It's fair to ask the same of the democratic right. (Note the small "d.")
I reached Jealous in Kansas City, where he was attending the NAACP convention, and he went out of his way to emphasize that his group is not making a blanket charge of racism. "We have never called the Tea Party racist," he said. "We know there are black Tea Party members and we want black people to feel comfortable taking leadership positions in all parties in this country."
But speaking of tea party leaders, he added: "We've seen the signs, we've heard the slurs, and all we're asking is for you to act responsibly and say there's no space for bigots in the Tea Party."
Sarah Palin struck back Tuesday on her Facebook page, declaring herself "saddened by the NAACP's claim that patriotic Americans who stand up for the United States of America's constitutional rights are somehow ‘racists.'"
That, of course, is not what the NAACP is saying.
She went on to refer to "America's past racism," and identified herself with Ronald Reagan, who said it was "a legacy of evil." And then Palin brought the conversation back to herself.
"Having been on the receiving end of a similar spurious charge of racism," she said, "I know how Tea Party Americans feel to be falsely accused."
This is a shameless, narcissistic dodge. "Palin wants to construct a false argument," Jealous said in the telephone interview. "Palin wants the terms of debate to be about people calling her racist, and nobody's calling her racist." The NAACP, he said, is simply challenging her along with other Tea Party leaders to separate themselves cleanly from "racist behavior" by some in the movement.
"We have seen what's happened in the past when we let groups play ‘Hide the Ball' with racism in their ranks," Jealous said...
Let's start with former Rep. Tom Tancredo's speech at a Tea Party convention last February that never got the attention it deserved. The reason we elected "Barack Hussein Obama," Tancredo said back then, is "mostly because I think we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country." By the way, he was cheered for this.
Should anyone be surprised that members of the NAACP might be alarmed over the suggestion that we need "literacy tests," phony devices once used to keep African-Americans from voting?
Guilt by association is wrong, but it's entirely legitimate to insist that those who believe in democracy and freedom take forceful steps to disassociate themselves from people in their movement who peddle racism, intolerance and fear. That's what the NAACP is asking. It's your move, Sarah.
Oh, please. "Your move"? Thinking a little highly of yourself there, eh Dionne? As if she gives a rat's behind what you think.
First of all, the NAACP condemnation used pictures of a handful of signs out of a movement of millions and the false story that racial epithets were hurled at black Congressmen after they passed the health care bill as their basis for this idiocy.
Now, maybe they have time to track down every last idiot in this country and demand that whatever group they're a part of condemn them. They must have a lot of time to waste.
Meanwhile, every time Zo posts a video on You Tube or a black Tea Party candidate gives a speech, the comment sections are filled with liberals calling them "house niggas."
As for Palin's "dodge," perhaps this guy didn't see the NAACP's tweet (that was later deleted) saying that the Tea Party had sent racists to D.C. to hurl epithets and the NAACP wouldn't let them get away with it! Palin is identified with the TPM. Therefore, she was smeared as well. And she was mostly defending the people in the Tea Party. She just used herself as an example since she is associated with the Tea Party Movement.
The NAACP's condemnation was an attempt to smear an entire movement because of a few people that the vast, VAST majority of tea party protestors have never even seen at a rally. They can sit back now and split hairs, but the whole thing was unnecessary and their real agenda is as transparent as glass. And one more thing, to imply that a Tea Party American would not condemn someone they saw at a rally with a truly offensive sign is insulting. And I include myself in that category. I've been to three rallies in my state. I've never once seen anything that could be remotely considered racist. And if I did, I'd say something.
Every movement has its fringes. This guy is comparing a literal handful of people to a wing that has whole marches full of lunatics screaming things like "Kill George Bush!"
As for Tom Tancredo or whatever, I am so sick and tired of these people trying to find a racist under every rock. They did this to Hillary Clinton, for Pete's sake. "Oh the 'code words' the Clinton campaign was hurling, they're obviously aimed at Obama being black." Oh, shut up! I'm not a Hillary fan, but that was ridiculous.
Tancredo was talking about how stupid the typical Obama voter was. Do liberals not charge the same thing of Republicans or Sarah Palin followers all the time? But because Obama's black, dig out that race card.
I'll return the NAACP's favor. Since they haven't come out against the Black Panther idiot who picked up a microphone and screamed about killing 'crackas' and 'white babies,' the NAACP is racist. They hate white people. And we will not allow them to hide any longer!
Bill Randall, Tea Party Candidate: