The conservative chairman of the black leadership network Project 21, Mychal Massie, did not mince words Monday afternoon as he spoke at the empty chairs of his three would-be sparring partners — Al Sharpton, National Urban League President Marc Morial and former D.C. Congressional Delegate Walter Fauntroy — all of whom had been scheduled to debate him about the alleged racism in the Tea Party.
“It is nice to blame the white man, it’s nice to blame ‘Uncle Toms’ — such as myself — it’s nice to blame right-wing, extreme Republicans and conservatives. It’s easy,” Massie told his absent liberal counterparts. He was driving home the point that demonizing the Tea Party, which is unified by a desire for less spending, limited government and devotion to the Constitution, is not the answer.
Debate moderator Richard Pollock, who is the Washington editor for Pajamas Media, explained the reasoning of going forward with the event despite the threesome’s failure to show.
“Those who make allegations in public have a responsibility to be accountable,” Pollock said. “We have heard an awful lot about civility in our society today and Project 21, I understand, on numerous occasions were in touch with all of these organizations and had conversations with them and I think with civility and respect — if you get an invitation you do respond.”
Without the Sharpton, Fauntroy or Morial, Pollock posed questions to empty seats based on the three absentees’ past racially charged statements about the Tea Party. When the empty chairs failed to respond, Massie provided his rebuttal to their claims.
Much of the debate focused on the comments surrounding Glenn Beck’s Aug. 28 rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Massie noted that his event would have been held closer to when the statements were made, but Project 21 kept pushing it back so as to allow the three leaders more time to RSVP. They never did.
“On the anniversary of the March on Washington, Glenn Beck is going to talk about the dream of Martin Luther King and how he was with him and not us,” Sharpton said in June, implying King’s legacy belonged only to the civil rights movement.
Massie responded that King’s words were not the sole property of African Americans, and argued it was a holistic message for all Americans.
“Dr. King spoke of not allowing the root of bitterness to spring up, and that is what we see taking place today. He spoke of an inclusiveness and we cannot deny that in any of the words of Dr. King,” Massie said. “I am disappointed because I would like to hear how Rev. Sharpton defends his remarks. This is not about white or black. This is about America. This is about the inclusiveness and the wholeness of America.”
When confronted with Sharpton’s accusation that Beck hijacked the location and date of King’s March on Washington — “I’m trying to be disciplined and not make this about those that have, in my opinion, hijacked a location, but will never be able to hijack the dream” — Massie flipped the charge around, saying Sharpton was the one hijacking King’s memory for his own ends.
“It is they who have hijacked the message of Dr. King and his memory and prostituted it as currency for personal gain to promote their agenda,” Massie said going on to detail how America has become a bastion of equality where anybody can become wealthy and prosper — a place where institutionalized racism is dead.
“I can get a hotel where ever I wish, I walk in I am greeted with a ‘Yes sir, can I help you, sir.’ Even if they scowl they are reminded to say ‘sir’ because they have an order of the day,” said Massie.
Massie took on Fauntroy’s charge that the Tea Party is interchangeable with the Ku Klux Klan by cataloging the various incarnations of the KKK and their horrific acts, from bombings to torture to lynchings, and asked, what form did the Tea Party take?
In response to Morial’s August proclamation, “We will not stand silent as some seek to bamboozle Dr. King’s dream,” Massie said people like Morial are the true bamboozlers.
“Mr. Morial uses the word bamboozle which basically means to deceive,” said Massie. “Mr. Morial should consider who it is exactly that is being bamboozled. Why is it, Mr. Morial, that black children today spurn Mark Twain but champion a 50 Cent or a Tupac Shakur or a Biggie Smalls or you-name-it rapper that spews forth the most vile and reprehensible anti-establishment, anti-race, misogynistic lyrics?“
Massie was not through, explaining with passion that the true culprit has been the destruction of the black family and black children pinning their hopes on athletics or drug money, while eschewing their education.
“Why is it when you speak of bamboozled, at the end of the Civil Rights era — which I and others argue was 1964 — when over 80 percent of black homes were two parent households, 40 percent were business owners. Today we have uncontrolled abortion, uncontrolled crime, uncontrolled drop outs, no marketable education skills, no marketable employment skills, no marketable linguistic skills, no marketable social skills. Who’s been bamboozled? Who’s been conned?”
Pollock concluded the debate by explaining the origin of the “empty chair debate” and offered his services as moderator in the future, should Project 21 ever try to get Sharpton et al to respond.
“The empty chair debate is a long and honored tradition,” said Pollock. “It is one that has happened since the birth of our country. It occurs when people do not show the courage of their convictions. It happens when people decide to run away from their comments.”