I hold sentiments of disagreement and disappointment over the NAACP’s recent decision to promote, vote on, and champion its opposition to the Tea Party Movement on the grounds that the populist, grassroots movement is – in the words of the NAACP – “…not just about higher taxes and limited government…”
As a supporter of the historical contributions of this iconic civil rights organization and a believer in the group’s ability to rebound from its mounting irrelevancy over the recent decade, I share common values with the NAACP for the advanced of all people, including and particularly people of color. Both the NAACP and I – along with many Americans – commonly believe in the ability to protest peacefully in America, understanding that this is a civil right that has been emblazoned upon the spirit of all citizens within our nation’s borders through the sacrifice of soldiers and Freedom Fighters alike. As well, we share the tenet that patriotic and personal strength and dignity are found in upholding civic respect, decency, and honor through both our agreements and debates that allow for the continuation of true civic equality for all Americans.
However, it is with regret that I find the proud organization and I at odds over its willingness to stereotype the Tea Party Movement through its adherence to pop politics and brief media presentations instead of actual research and engagement with a swelling community of Americans that have ties to the diversity of our country. The NAACP’s willingness to take umbrage with this movement and label a significant portion of their fellow citizens through leveraging 30-second sound bites on radio, sensationalized B-roll video clips on television, and hearsay isolated incidents is akin to those Americans that stereotype everyone within contemporary Black America as “welfare queens”, “urban terrorists”, and “burdens on American society.” Both behaviors are dangerously overreaching and wrong. Just as I have dealt with isolated examples of racism and inappropriate behavior with pointed responses as an African-American Tea Party patriot and featured speaker, so must the NAACP precisely direct the intent of its resolution without overextending its accusations in a quasi-partisan or other mal-intended or misunderstood manner. Just as my inactivity to confront isolated incidents of racism would be cowardly and wrong from my perspective, the NAACP’s refusal to be pointed and careful in its critique prompts the seepage of the required moral authority to properly address, corral, and improve the Tea Party situation from the NAACP’s outsider perspective.
I take note of the NAACP’s willingness in the resolution to state that the Tea Party Movement has continued – according to the words of a generation colleague of mine, President Ben Jealous – “…(a) continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements…”
This statement and its related sentiments have been forged by the NAACP and promoted to Black America to rally up opposition against the vast majority of free-speech Americans that embrace diversity within our citizenry. At the same time, the organization has kept particularly and conveniently quiet during notable examples of hatred and violence over the recent months in the United States. For example, where has been the outcry from the NAACP over the voter intimidation of various ethnicities of Americans – including Black people – during the 2008 presidential election? The NAACP has also heard the pop politics, pop media response to this issue and its corresponding Department of Justice involvement, yet no large-scale reply has been forthcoming from the NAACP. Where was the national statement from the NAACP during the assault of a Black man by others at a rally during that same presidential election cycle, beat down because he was supporting GOP candidates at the time? Was not this man – attacked over his beliefs – to be included and viewed as equal much like those that rallied under the NAACP banner to ensure these rights were just a few decades ago? The NAACP has run to the defense of one Black Democrat because of the use of both appropriate and isolated but highly inappropriate political satire during protests, yet has intentionally remained silent when elected officials and Black leaders undergo the same treatment as Black Republicans – with the notable difference being that Black activists have also engaged in the inappropriate and heinously disrespect behavior towards Blacks within the GOP camp.
Further, this curious statement on Tea Party issues of today based on scant engagement and analysis of a situation questions how other organizations should be addressed by the NAACP. Should have, for example, the NAACP considered the Christian Church – a pillar of its strength for scores of years – to be an enemy due to the Ku Klux Klan’s decades-long extreme activities in the name of upholding its twisted definitions and use of Christianity? Does the NAACP consider the Black Panther Party – an organization that was revered in the 1960s for feeding hungry inner city children and educating them to fill in the gaps that grossly-mismanaged school systems created – an obstruction for advancing the plight of the disadvantaged because of the hatred emoted by two of its members at a Philadelphia polling site? If isolated incidents castigate a movement in one regard for the NAACP, does it always? Has the NAACP merely not heard about examples such as these in the recent past or have they willfully determined to cast aside civil rights for all as demarcated in the Constitution and defended by its founders and ancestors for the hollowness of partisanship and the subjectivity of self-defined meanings of ethics, equality, and fairness in today’s America?
The NAACP’s decision to create time for debate, constitution, and suffrage to pass and promote a resolution against the Tea Party Movement at a time in America’s history where Black people are suffering and dying at an alarming and epidemic rate due to the very conditions the vast majority of Tea Party activists speak to – including many minority Tea Party activists and speakers – highlights the vast disconnect of the proud organization from the actual problems and required actions of unity, open-mindedness, and passionate focus that are vital to turn around the lives of thousands of Americans whose talents, potential, and goodness we are losing to the conditions of our times. The actual plagues attacking Black America are ones that the NAACP must primarily address as an organization focused on civil rights for the disadvantaged. Just the same, I implore the Tea Party Movement to engage and improve the conditions we find in urban centers throughout the country if we are going to elicit the “smaller government, bigger people” lifestyle for Americans to secure and grow prosperity and peace in the 21st century. Detesting isolated incidents of racism at Tea Party rallies in a manner consistent of 1950s civil rights appraisals – while address a 21st century phenomenon – lacks the focus, creativity, good intents, non-partisanship, and moral authority that organizations such as the NAACP must have if they are to be balanced mechanisms of true leadership for Americans to correct the rocky course that we find ourselves on today as a nation.
The hollowness of this resolution simply does not promote the mission of civil rights that “colored people” need advanced today – better education, more job opportunities, less Black-on-Black crime throughout our nation, strengthened abilities and avenues for more Black fathers to be unimpededly and regularly in the lives of their children, and intolerance of misogyny within the Black community. As well, the resolution prioritizes partisan politics and emotive activism over the balanced engagement, reasoned understanding, and intellectually-creative and patriotic methods of leadership and activism that the NAACP had been noted for throughout the 20th century. It increases the levels of racial mistrust, racial tension, and racial separation from both sides through its summary knowledge of the people involved with and leading the grassroots, loosely-networked Tea Party Movement – knowledge most notably gained through the most extreme examples found in the media in seconds-long news stories, not in informative engagement and analysis that true leadership must incur to get the stories right for its followers that count on their impartial pursuit of justice.
The NAACP – much like the isolated activists that have perverted the good name of a majority of Tea Party patriots with inappropriate and abhorred behavior that continues to be self-policed from within – have leveraged the Tea Party Movement to play upon the worst of feelings, fears, and legacy emotions among us instead of taking up the obligation of history to create new debates, dialogues, and decisions to strength America. Of those minority faux activists attempting to hijacking the Tea Party Movement for their racist gain, I expect nothing more from them than hollow returns and failure in their mission. Of those proud contemporary leaders of the NAACP attempting to make the Tea Party Movement a racial dynamic with scant information to base their decisions off of, I expect a lot more from them, for I believe that with renewed focus, courage to step outside of the prescribed box of thought, and the call of history to put wind to their sails, this organization can reprioritize and “get it right” on this issue and a bevy of issues that threaten Black people within America and the prosperity and peace of all Americans.
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.