Yesterday, at the 101st annual convention of the NAACP, the group passed a resolution condemning what they call “rampant racism” in the Tea Party movement and reprimanding the use of racist epithets in Tea Party opposition to Barack Obama.
According to the unfortunately named Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP,
“We take issue with the Tea Party’s continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements. The time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no space for racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in their movement,” Jealous said.
Tea Partyers, of course, have quickly responded, saying this is totally unfair, and a lot of those so-called “racists” aren’t even Tea Partyers at all, just assholes (“fringe participants”) who show up with signs. Like this:
And Sarah Palin slung back on her Facebook page, blaming the NAACP for their “divisive politics”:
I am saddened by the NAACP’s claim that patriotic Americans who stand up for the United States of America’s Constitutional rights are somehow “racists.” The charge that Tea Party Americans judge people by the color of their skin is false, appalling, and is a regressive and diversionary tactic to change the subject at hand….
The only purpose of such an unfair accusation of racism is to dissuade good Americans from joining the Tea Party movement or listening to the common sense message of Tea Party Americans who simply want government to abide by our Constitution, live within its means, and not borrow and spend away our children’s futures. Red and yellow, black and white, this message is precious in all our sights. All decent Americans abhor racism. No one wants to be associated with any organization that is in any way racist in sentiment or origin. I certainly don’t want to be. Thankfully, the Tea Party movement is not racist or motivated by racism. It is motivated by love of country and all that is good and honest about our proud and diverse nation.
So, is the NAACP being “divisive”? And what’s “racist,” anyway? I mean, we’ve had caricatures of presidents for years before we ever had a black president. And admittedly, “making fun” does not necessarily equal racism.
But as Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy, said to CNN:
“After observing Tea Party activities throughout the country — which culminated with the outrageous and racist behavior of Tea Party activists during the historic congressional vote to pass into law comprehensive health care legislation — the NAACP began more closely investigating the Tea Party. Specifically as it was reported to us that Tea Party activists spat on [Congressman] John Lewis, a veteran civil rights activist and associate to Dr. Martin Luther King, and called Congressman Emanuel Cleaver the ‘N-word’ and called [Congressman] Barney Frank … one of the first openly gay members of Congress, the ‘F-word,’ ” Shelton said.
Yeah, that’s not so good. And frankly, this looks pretty racist to us.
The problem with such posters and propaganda is that, even if they’re not “racist” according to whomever created them (a dubious proposition, but we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for a minute), they undermine the entire authority and integrity of an organization, assuming there is authority and integrity there. Beyond that, if you’re making fun of someone because of their race, then, well, you pretty much are being racist (would George Bush ever appear in that poster? And don’t say, “No, because of his politics.”).
Throwing around racist lingo and imagery maybe be a cheap and easy way to get attention, but it only detracts from whatever maybe sensible argument you actually have, and disassociates you from the normal, reasonable (as Palin says, “decent”) people who don’t go there…which…we dare speculate…is what some of the “less-decent” people wanted in the first place?
Speaking of which, can we please quit calling Obama Hitler? It’s not even an apt comparison. Even many Tea Partyers agree!