August 4th, 2010
04:01 PM ET
4 years ago

Black conservatives join hands to deny racism within the Tea Party movement

 A group of African-American conservatives praised the Tea Party movement at the National Press Club Wednesday.
A group of African-American conservatives praised the Tea Party movement at the National Press Club Wednesday.

Washington (CNN) - Just over three weeks after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed a resolution accusing the Tea Party movement of harboring racist elements, a group of African-American conservatives joined hands in a chorus saying: "we are not racists."

On Wednesday, over two dozen black conservative leaders sang the praises of the controversial, grassroots movement during a carefully-organized press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. But the tone grew coarse as the assembled Tea Party supporters, one-by-one, offered scathing rebukes of those who say the movement is rife with racism.

"The Tea Party movement represents one of the greatest citizen uprisings in our young nation's history," prominent activist Selena Owens said as she opened up the event.

Owens then listed what she called "two disturbing misconceptions" about Tea Party groups. The first, Owens said, is that the movement is in bed with Republicans. "This movement came about because both of the major political parties utterly failed us," Owens insisted.

She then quickly turned to the primary reason for the event.

"The second misconception is that this movement is somehow racist. This fallacy was born out of the fact that since the Tea Party movement exploded in strength during the presidency of our nation's first half-black president – that those involved must really be motivated by race, and not principle."

Speaking for the group, Owens said, "This is not a movement driven by race but the love of country, for our Constitution and for the principles of liberty and freedom that are dear to all Americans."

The stream of other black conservatives echoed the sentiments, equally blasting Tea Party movement critics, the Obama administration and – at times – the media who they deem too liberal.

Among the most prominent, and perhaps most well known in the gathering, was Alan Keyes. The former ambassador and Republican presidential candidate – who also briefly challenged then Senate candidate Barack Obama in Illinois in 2004 – offered perhaps the most stinging condemnation of allegations of racism within the Tea Party movement.

Regarding the movement's ideological opponents, Keyes claimed a "sad and stereotypical effort on the part of the Obama faction, Democrats, the media, others who always seem to want to drive the politics of this country in a direction that sees everything through the lens of the phony category of race."

"It's a phony category, of course, because human communities really don't define themselves like breeds of dogs and cats according to physical characteristics," Keyes said.

But detractors believe Tea Party activists are overly sensitive to criticism and overlook racist elements within their movement.

The NAACP resolution, passed July 13, did not brand the entire movement as racist. In fact, it praised activists for frequently speaking truth to power – something the nation's oldest civil rights group has consistently done in its storied pursuit of racial justice.

"We take no issue with the Tea Party. We believe in freedom of assembly and people raising their voices in a democracy," NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous said in a statement at the time.

But the civil rights group did condemn, what it saw, as too few efforts from leaders of the Tea Party movement to drive out racists in their ranks.

"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 added.

As evidence, the group cited racist rants and behavior that targeted Congressmen John Lewis, a veteran civil rights activist, and Emanuel Cleaver during the historic congressional vote to pass sweeping health care legislation. The NAACP also cited racist signs against the president at Tea Party rallies.

The black leaders at the Wednesday press conference called all of it bunk.

The black conservatives denied that rallies featured racist signs. And there is no proof, they claimed, that Lewis and Cleaver were called the "N-word" or spat on, essentially questioning the veracity of two of the nation's most respected African-American lawmakers.

Amid the exchange over that issue, one supporter – Bob Parks of the National Advisory Council – used part of his speaking time to employ a play on words.

"I think with the Tea Party, we are going to hear the 'N-word' a lot in the next few weeks and months," Parks said.

"That 'N-word' is November. And I very much look forward to hearing it."


Filed under: NAACP • Tea Party movement
soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. wmscot

    I can get a group of white folks together and say that liberals are racist too. What does a handfull of Black ( I thought we were human beings ) conservitives shw when we have seen the news pictures and gone to the rallies to see what this conservitve party is all about.

    August 4, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  2. one voice

    Right wing bloggers are nothing but spoiled rich kids,STFU BRATS

    August 4, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. CEvans, Texas

    TRADERS!! TRADERS!! TRADERS!! You will pay for this!! Just wait!! The very ones you are supporting, are the very ones who will turn their backs on you!! FOOLS!!

    August 4, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. Ancient Texan

    Thank goodness! Somebody finally standing up to the bullying of the left and their built-in reflex action of" "if you don't like it, you're a racist".

    August 4, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. Massachusetts Conservative

    T'SHA, Dominican Mama, Dutch, Ed from Santa Fe, BeverlyNC, Lacrosse Mom...question for you...How exactly are you going to spin this? Looks like your race card has been ripped up and thrown away. Does the Obama Apologist Handbook go directly to name-calling after the race card has been used? Or is there an interim step that I am missing? Oh wait...I've got it...spin it around and talk about Bush or Palin or Beck or Limbaugh. Did I get that right? Can I become an honorary member of Obamanation?

    August 4, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  6. once upon a horse

    the NAACP did NOT say that the Tea Party was racist, they said there was a racist element IN the movement and if you look at some of the signs,t-shirts, hear some of the speakers like "Klan-cerdo" it was true. NOW when called out all of a suddent they come up with African American Tea Partiers. I would like to ask them one question..."WHERE were you all when Bush was president and the defict was rising?" and "Why did it take the first African American presidnet to have this so-called grass roots movement start to grow"? What about the percentage of Tea Party members who admit that part of their problem with the president is because of his race? I guess like most right wingers they too like to ignore facts. One thing is for certain, the NAACP wrongly or rightly did at least get this gripe out in the open and they now have to discuss it.

    August 4, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  7. John

    What all 10 of them? I'm surprised they can find 10 "Conservative" African-Americans. I think they either paid or drugged these folks....we can call this a new "movement" similar to the "Birther" Movement.

    August 4, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  8. JonDie

    "On Wednesday, over two dozen black conservative leaders sang the praises of the controversial, grassroots movement during a carefully-organized press conference..."

    Carefully organized = written and choreographed by white folks

    August 4, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  9. NYC REPUB

    Who cares? The Republican-Tea Party, are full of bankrupt ideas and ideology.
    In February 2009, before any stimulus had passed, before HC reform, before Wall St. reform, there THEY were in Washington DC, already full of rage, toward a President that had been in office for about 2 weeks...........

    Yet their guy GBush Jr., tore this country to shreds in 8 years, and there was no Tea Party......

    August 4, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  10. cf

    So this is the tea party version of "I'm not racist, I have a black friend!"

    You can't march around with signs depicting the black President as a monkey, as a witch doctor, as Steve Urkel, as Hitler, and in whiteface and not expect people to see the racial tone of your message.

    August 4, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  11. Never Republican

    Thank God the racists have assembled some black people to declare that they aren't racist!

    "...for the principles of liberty and freedom that are dear to all Americans."

    Really? Where were you during the Bush/Cheney years.. illegal war(s), suspension of Mirada Rights, institution of torture, illegal search of phone records, wire-tapping Americans.. You were all in step with the GOP.

    Wake up – you are racist and assembling a bunch of Allan Keye's uber rightwingnut types will not prove otherwise.

    August 4, 2010 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. Rick McDaniel

    Thank you, for showing the other side of the coin.

    August 4, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  13. Rickster

    "This is not a movement driven by race but the love of country, for our Constitution and for the principles of liberty and freedom that are dear to all Americans."..........................that quote is right on the money. Conservatives don't care what color a person's skin is, we care about saving this great country from the ravages of the democrat party(and those RINOS that agree with them).

    August 4, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  14. Girl Friday

    Really...REALLY? A "fallacy was born out of the fact that since the Tea Party movement exploded in strength during the presidency of our nation's first half-black president..." Ummm, noooo, how 'bout the racist letter their Tea Party SPOKESMAN, Mark Williams, wrote, MOCKING the NAACP in the form of a letter to President Lincoln, who himself was not so crazy about the slaves he supposedly "freed" via the Emancipation Proclamation. C'mon...that and a dozen other reasons, including Sarah Palin and Sharon Angle...no, no racism there, Palin allowing African American camera men to be addressed in racially derogatory terms at her hate rallies. Yikes, am I sad to see a movement of hate like the Tea Party gain any kind of traction with respectable people of color.

    August 4, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Steve, New York City

    Oh yes, black conservatives. . . .what do you say about the birthers?

    August 4, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  16. Bob in Pa

    BeverlyNC – You don't know me so please don't judge me !!!
    Read your rant and then tell us again who is racist.

    August 4, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. Former Republican - Now Independent

    Uh, I thought the Tea Party was a national grass roots movement with a following of tens of millions and all they can get is maybe two dozen blacks to stand up on a stage.

    Somethin' ain't kosher.

    August 4, 2010 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  18. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    During world war ll, even some French people were sympathetic to the invading Germans. Here, the baggers found 10 people who think like Alan Keyes and Michelle Malkin.

    August 4, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Brian

    Wow. How were they able to coordinate the schedules of all 10 black republicans?

    August 4, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. Marty, FL

    No matter how much denial is desperately purported, the fact remains that teabagger groups have documented signs with white-painted faces, witch doctors, and racial epithets (ad nauseum).

    The ongoing push to somehow ignore these unsavory elements only solidifies its existence in the teabagger groups.

    So indeed, many Americans can't wait for November to keep these tea extremes out of our government.

    August 4, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
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