(NNPA)—It was another right-on-time moment that Ben Jealous exercised at the NAACP Convention in calling out the Tea Party for coddling elements of racism within their midst. The convention went on to pass a resolution to this effect, calling on the leadership of the party to repudiate these elements, but it will not become official until approved by the Executive Committee in October.
Right away, Mark Williams, the head of a group called the Tea Party Express and a California radio host, posted a letter to his website that was aimed at Jealous and dripping with racism. It said 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.” With this racist letter, he made Jealous’ case and he did it so strong that, flush with sensitivity to the NAACP charges, the Tea Party Federation kicked Williams out.
This was a positive act by the Federation because the leading lights of the Republican Party still, either said nothing, or defended the movement. For instance, Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, said that he was not “interested in getting into that debate” on CNN. When asked whether he had seen the signs depicting the president as Hitler and etc. he defended it by saying that such extremism exist at the fringe of both parties. But the usual suspects, Fox people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and others jumped into the fray to defend the movement. Palin, regarded as the mother of the Tea Party movement, said that the charge of racism was unfair and Glenn Beck, FOX TV show host, said he would repudiate the elements of racism if he knew where they were.
What surprised me was the opposition of Cynthia Tucker, African-American editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who wrote that the NAACP had no business condemning the Tea Party. Her view was: 1) She did not know what “elements” of racism were; 2) This would confirm that the NAACP was an arm of the Democratic Party; 3) The NAACP did not purge its own ranks; and 4) The resolution just draws attention to the Tea Partiers. This is very weak stuff for the editor of a major American newspaper, especially coming from an African-American. With enough space, I—or any one else— could easily prove all of them wrong.
The big push-back from the right however (more of a political strategy) has been to raise the New Black Panther Party case from the grave. On Nov. 4, 2008, some members of the New Black Panther Party went to a polling station in downtown Philly because they had heard that White people would be trying to stop Blacks from voting for Obama. It was absolutely stupid for one of the young men to go down there with a club in his hand and a McCain staffer photographed him in front of the polling station. The Bush administration’s Justice Department did not bring suit because although the law (intimidating voters) was potentially broken, no one had been prevented from going to the polls; in other words, there was no injured party.
Now the case is in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and conservatives have charged that Eric Holder is covering it up and a former conservative staffer who resigned said the case was not being pursued because they only want to bring discrimination charges against Whites. So, Fox news and other right-wingers have succeeded in pushing this issue up into the spotlight by arguing that the liberal fringe also has racist groups. Most important, they have charged that the left-wing media wasn’t carrying the story and The Washington Post, CNN and others have slavishly fallen in line.
So, if some people want to compare the actions of the New Black Panther Party to those of the Tea Party which, although it is overblown, still has thousands of adherents, it calls into question their motives. Most likely they want to cover up the racism in the Tea Party. The Panthers have no influence in Black or Democratic Party leadership circles but the Tea Party is the main influence in the Republican Party at this time. Still, I am amazed that major news organizations, so intimidated by the right, will give credibility to this made-up story on the Panthers on equal terms to the NAACP’s criticism of Tea Party racism.
(Dr. Ron Walters is a political analyst and Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. He is the author of “White Nationalism, Black Interests” (Wayne State University Press)