Monday, July 19, 2010

Hoodwinked and Bamboozled

Last week, the NAACP passed a resolution condemning the racist elements of the Tea Party Movement. Despite the fact that the NAACP passed many other significant resolutions, the media became fixated on the Tea Party issue.

For the pass couple of years, prominent African American bloggers such as Field Negro and Jack and Jill Politics exposed the extremist and racist fringes of the Tea Party movement. For years, other progressive media outlets such as The Huffington Post and Democracy Now have discussed that issue in depth. This issue is nothing new.

The racist elements in the Tea Party movement are apparent. Many of their demonstrations include racist and inflammatory signs. Some signs depict President Obama as a monkey, a stereotypical African Witch doctor and a Muslim terrorist. Other signs read "Obamanomics, Monkey See, Monkey Spend", "Obama's Plan, White Slavery", "The American Taxpayers Are the Jews for Obama's Ovens", "Congress = Slave Owner, Taxpayer = Niggar", "Cap Congress and Trade Obama Back to Kenya", "Impeach Muslim Marxist" and "The Zoo has an African, The White House has a Lyin' African". Recently, Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams wrote a mock letter from the NAACP to President Lincoln stating:

"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!"

Consequently, the National Tea Party Federation expelled Mr. Williams. On March 20, 2010, Tea Party protesters called Congressman John Lewis a "nigger". These action are clearly racist. As an NAACP staff member, I am proud that the NAACP strongly condemned such racism.

To counter the NAACP's accusations, the Tea Party movement has deployed several token African American spokespersons such as David Webb, Deneen Borelli and others. By utilizing such persons, the Tea Party is attempting to say, "We are not racist. We have black leaders." Before this controversy, those people were practically invisible. Where is Sarah Palin? Where is Dick Armey? Why hasn't the media asked them to address the controversy?

To divert attention from the real issue, the conservatives have argued that the NAACP is hypocritical for failing to renounce the New Black Panther Party (NBPP). That argument is flawed for several reasons. NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous has publicly condemned the NBPP for its racism. As Mr. Jealous stated, the NBPP is not a partner organization, member organization or unit of the NAACP. The NBPP does not participate in the NAACP's demonstrations. Conversely, as previously stated, racists actually participate in Tea Party demonstrations and hold positions of influence.

In addition, the Tea Party supporters demanded that the NAACP renounce former USDA official Shirley Sherrod for racial statements made during an NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner. During her speech, Ms. Sherrod described an incident that occurred over 20 years ago. Unfortunately, without conducting a thorough investigation, the Association issued a stern condemnation. Essentially, the NAACP was hoodwinked and bamboozled by Tea Party proponents into issuing the statement. Later, to clarify the situation, the Association retracted the statement and posted the full video of Ms. Sherrod's speech.

We must not allow our adversaries to confuse and distract us. Instead of attempting to placate right wing conservatives, we must remain focused. The Tea Party movement is an influential movement. The Tea Party is shaping the electoral landscape. We must continue to demand that the Tea Party take down the racist signs. We must demand that they expel the racists from their ranks.

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