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. Blaum

    I wonder how long it'll take the Libs to claim that these fine people are "not black enough"....

    August 4, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  2. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    All ten of them. Impressive.

    August 4, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  3. NoBama

    They will still call the Tea Party racists. It is all they have left because they lost the argument.

    August 4, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  4. Blaum

    "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.

    so.......

    When will the NAACP drive out the racists in ITS group?

    August 4, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. RedNeck_Ted

    We don't allow any n-words in our Tea Party. That's cuz we don't allow any n-words in our communities.

    August 4, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  6. Marie MD

    I am sorry, but they probably believe that steele is the rnc chairman because of his intellect, NOT!!!

    August 4, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  7. inofritzn

    H els yeah! I blame the media and their liberal sheep mostly for the attempted discrediting of the Tea Party movement. These are real people with real concerns, and you liberals are going to get steamrolled with your ignorance.

    August 4, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. Augsbee

    Netroots movement; Progressive Movement, Grassroots movement and Tea Party movement all have hundreds of members, some members are racists and some members are non-racists. There is no way to keep a racist person from joining any of these movements. Some whites are racist, some blacks are racist.

    August 4, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. Son of CSM.Wiggins

    Look at the Uncle tom clan LOL . I can bet none of them are allowed at family functions. Oh well to each as own. I could never be a black republican I care about other people, and not just my own pockets. I own my business never asked for a hand out nor a bail out. I'm proud of my black skin and could never turn my back on my people. But this is what my father fights these wars for so people can sell there souls to the devil. It's a free country and there right lmao.

    August 4, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  10. craig watts

    These so-called black conversatives are nothing but modern day Uncle Toms. The are self hating blacks who align themselves with bigots and would rather look the other way in the face of the tea party racism so they can achieve financial gain. If they don't think racism exists in the tea party just look at You Tube.

    August 4, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  11. rdepontb

    Some people will do ANYTHING to sneak into the "in crowd." Even turn against their core beliefs, lie to themselves and their families and friends.

    August 4, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  12. Hangar 13

    Reality check: John Lewis did not claim that anyone directed a racial slur at him, that claim was made by others and Mr. Lewis declined to confirm it. In a crowd rife with reporters and video cameras, it's unfathomable that not one single instance of the N-word was recorded unless IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. Opinion: It's understandable that liberals accuse all of their ideological opponents of racism. The struggle for racial equality in the 50s and 60s remains the one issue in the past century in which the liberals were right, and they have to go back to their only known occasion of being on the right side of a controversy.

    August 4, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  13. me

    Alan Keyes? Well, that shoots their credibility in the foot. But I will congratulate them for getting all the black conservatives, except for Michael Steele, in the photo.

    August 4, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  14. Shucks

    Good for them. If that is what they believe then fine. However, I would caution them that conservatism is not the primary reason the tea party was started and most Americans with a brain know it.

    August 4, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. Sheryl McGruder

    Oh please give me a break, that's a very small group of blacks...And yes I am black , they are so full of it!!! Who cares this keeps getting stranger and stranger.....

    August 4, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  16. Grog in Ohio

    "On Wednesday, over two dozen black conservative leaders sang the praises of the controversial, grassroots movement"

    Okay... let me get this straight. With 12 million+ African Americans in this country, the Tea Cuppers found "over two dozen" that buy into their screed? Yeah... that's convincing.

    August 4, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. RedMan, CA

    3 weeks and only 24 people collected. lol... Tokens and brain dead, the whole lot of them...

    Of course there is no racist factors in the tea party – pictures with Obama with a bone through his nose and telling him to go home to Kenya and calling him names is just good ol's politics GOP style.

    August 4, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. bfranklin

    This forum always lists the Tea Party movement as controversial. It is only controversial becuase the main stream media (and CNN) continually call it controversial.
    Our great nation was formed using the opinions of many

    August 4, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  19. Bill744

    Glad to see this but sorry that it's necessary.
    The NAACP statement that the Tea Party "harbors racists" sounds like careful parsing. Just what constitutes "harboring"? They certainly don't advocate racism and don't seem to tolerate it either. It's just not in the same universe of concerns for them.
    I'm not a Tea Partier and I don't see eye to eye with them on many issues, but they have definitely caught a lot of flak unfairly. Certain party and media leaders seem to have it in for them for purely partisan PR motives.
    If we could get by all this vitriol, maybe we could aspire to a new and sincerely progressive organization: The NAAH – the National Association for the Advancement of Humans.

    August 4, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  20. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    24 Uncle Toms. They are part of the Motisa Tribe(Mo-Tea-Sir). They may not believe the tea Party is racist, but I, like most African Americans with 2 eyes in their skull can see it.

    August 4, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. larry

    They may look black on the outside but they are honky whities through and through. Two dozen? I guess they got all that there is and they are all the same as the blind Chappell KKK guy. Three cheers for "The White Annoying Teabagger" party. Hiel Hitler, Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler.

    August 4, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  22. Voter

    What? Not a single comment from the left wing? Oh, of course not. It actually makes a valid point.

    August 4, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  23. Reality Bites

    This article leaves out the fact that ALL of these so-called "supporters" were PAID to appear at this event!

    August 4, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  24. Mike

    Is that all of them pictured above? Im seeing 9 maybe 10 total. All probably paid a pretty penny to stand up there and say they are black conservatives.

    August 4, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  25. Dano

    It's a shame that these folks didn't have "the love of country, for our Constitution and for the principles of liberty and freedom that are dear to all Americans." during the previous administration. They would have had a field day fighting against Bush & Cheney's trampling on the Constitution and human rights!

    August 4, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
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