Please give me a moment to speak from the heart—less as a writer or blogger, but more as a leader and American watching all of this hatred over the past week or so.
Let me start with the obvious: I am a proud African-American. Always have been—always will be.
Now, let me state the less-than-obvious: I am a proud young conservative. Notably, I am a proud Frederick Douglass Republican, as noted during my participation last weekend at the Leadership Summit in Washington.
From here, let me reiterate this yet again for those that missed it before:
I, in no way, shape, or form, support or condone the alleged acts of racism and homophobia that have been reported in the news over the past week. I am not for any of the threats of violence or the loss of civility that we have experienced throughout this health care debate. I do not condone or justify any of the non-self-defensive acts or threats of violence that we continue to hear about throughout the nation, be the allegations stem from Tea Parties, Coffee Parties, anti-Republican rallies, or anything else of the sort.
And yes, although the Obama presidency has become one of the most divisive presidencies in American history already (some part due to being the first Black president, but primarily due to being one of the most leftist, big-government presidents we have ever had), I am not a supporter of some of the most radical depictions of the president—or of others—seen during protests.
Political satire has been part of the American political world since the beginning. Even George Washington was hung in effigy (wrongly, I might add), but yes—I am particularly sensitive of seeing any Black man in a noose, considering the history of lynching in America.
As I noted in November 2008, any presidential assassination talk must cease immediately before it bubbles up—neither I nor anyone else within United States (notably Black America) will stomach another attempt on the life of another prominent national leader that is African-American.
Further, I have been downright offended by the “Obama the Witch Doctor” and other racist signs that I have personally seen. Hatred in any form—from racism to sexism to homophobia—is not excusable, even in the heights of passionate debate in a time of crisis in America. I have not tolerated it in my presence and we must not allow this to seep any further into any movement working to revive the true essence of America. When I see it occurring (and it has not been often), I confront it. Most of the time, those around me at the Tea Parties and other protests agree fully with my disgust. On rare occasions, someone tries to justify it, which simply allows me the opportunity to justify obliterating them in public verbally in front of thousands—to the delight of those that concur with my intolerance for bigotry or justified hatred via political debate.
Injustice—and, in this instance, hatred—anywhere is a threat to justice—and respect—everywhere.
With that said…
Congress’ zeal to pass a version of health care reform that roughly 45 percent or so of Capitol Hill and 60-65 percent of Americans disapprove of has led to a further loss of the true essence of America: passionate debate, citizen civics, honoring the past, and upholding the code and spirit of the Constitution. It has also led to the loss of Americanism in other ways, too. We have forgotten where we have come from as a people, even when the journey was not that long ago.
For example, on Wednesday, I was featured in a CNN piece that described the tough position that Republicans must take with the Tea Party Movement. In summary, I noted that the GOP must continue to leverage the majority of these conservative activists while working to neutralize or eliminate the fringe elements that are using the movement to perpetuate hatred. Afterwards, the first e-mail in a string of contacts that I received after the piece hit my inbox within 20 minutes of airing. I was called a “House nigga” that was being used by my “masters.” Others called me “bootlicker” and “Uncle Tom.”
And, after a little bit of investigation, I learned that all of them were fellow African-Americans.
Sadly, this was not a surprise considering recent times, but this highlights my point: We as Americans cannot allow the honor of our past to be sidestepped in the process of securing a better future because our passion overtakes us in negative ways.
Hatred does not become acceptable merely because one thinks that they are on the “right side of history.” If so, he or she risks falling into the same trap that the people of Germany suffered some 70 years ago. Just the same, the failure for openness, decorum, debate, and respect—from the Hill to our neighborhoods—is not excusable because the stakes are so high. The strength of the United States comes from our Constitution, including which is the freedom of speech, among others found in the Bill of Rights. Even as we see the irreprehensible breach of constitutionality by President Obama and a small majority in Congress, our failure to leverage the Constitution as our weapon in this populist revolution only leads to chaos and, likely, a loss of life and focus in the process.
The vast majority of Tea Party activists get this. The fringe element attached to it might not even care about this, so long as the movement provides a chance to promote hatred. It did this to grow the Ku Klux Klan during economic crisis in the early 20th century. It did this during the Civil Rights Movements—both after the Civil War (i.e., Reconstruction) and during the 1950s and 1960s. This is nothing new. Just as we defeat them through physical restraint and visible resistance to their positions in the past, we must do the same today—and we will. As well, Black people that get caught up into things that the level of opposition stems solely from President Obama being the first Black president risk being more caught up in skin complexion than we are collectively on issues and policies that affect the United States, including Black America that finds itself in major crisis. If pride in Mr. Obama’s Administration trumps common decency, heightened awareness to the issues, or activism past racial and ethnic pride, we dishonor the men and women that died for our freedom, from Black patriots during the Revolutionary War and World War II to domestic leaders that passed at the hands of assassins.
Yet, it is not just them purporting animosity based on race. From Nancy Pelosi essentially calling the CIA war-mongering conspirators back in 2009 to the Obama Administration labeling the Tea Party movement as some domestic right-wing terror group later in the year, the level of labeling of fellow Americans by the political left has also aided into the amount of anger stewing throughout the country today. That has nothing to do with racism itself, but once you throw the claim of racism into the mix, it becomes an explosive concoction.
This is not about race, folks, despite some of the fringes making it out to be that way. Some of the very people being called racists at the Tea Parties around the country were also older enough—and active enough—to bring about civil rights changes for black people and women in America during the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the very people being called racists have black grandchildren; (I have seen it personally.) Some of the very people called racists protested for justice in the 20th century at a time when physical harm was considered a right of social passage.
Therefore, after my personal experiences getting to know thousands of Tea Party activists, I have to say this: I will not allow anyone to stereotype a whole group of Americans with a blanket label of “racists” anymore than I would ever allow anyone to stereotype all African-American young men in our nation as “thugs” and “niggas.” Acknowledging individual merit of character is the essence of America; stereotyping is not. Just the same, passionate debate in politics is the essence of America; violent expression of self is not. Respect for the office of the presidency is the essence of America, even if you revile the policies of the person holding the office. Intolerance for double standards regarding hatred, racism, or politics due to “who’s winning” is the essence of America; ignoring such behavior because it behooves one’s agenda is not only wrong, but it is dangerous to us as individuals and as Americans.
When American is capable of reclaiming its essence and arguing political issues without such a primary focus on race is when the time comes for America to mature past its wounds. However, it will take work: either America will address and resolve its double-standard when it comes to hatred, racism, ethics, and impropriety in American politics or we will continue to suffer their effects in American society at increasingly-dangerous rates and felt on both sides.
Current evidence supports this. We have congressmen getting bricks and bullets whizzing through their windows. We have Black unemployment at double the rate of other ethnicities. With overall hate crimes down, we see that hate crimes against African-Americans has actually gone up roughly 8 percent. Everyday Americans are called racists because of the color of their skin or their disapproval with government action. The common man is growing to despise a ruling class that ignores the people’s voice knowing that 90 percent of them will be re-elected to office for the foreseeable future. Agendas for social change are pursued against the will of the people, even as the people continue to struggle finding work to support their families.
Where will it end? I don’t know. I do know, however, that it must end through embracing the passion of America without allowing un-American values—hatred, racism, sexism, stereotyping, and un-democratic decorum, among others—to become the law of the land. Without doing this quickly, we will sadly have a new set of inhibiting filters in place while we watch the erosion of the greatest nation that the modern world has ever seen.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator, podcast co-host, and the author of the book, “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative,)” purchased online at www.tinyurl.com/lennysdiary and www.amazon.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook .