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. Renee

    So 2 dozen or so African Americans say that the Tea Party isn't racist when the other 80% or more African America say that the Tea paryt is racist. Why is this news?

    August 4, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  2. gt

    the democrats will try anything to not focus on jobs and afganistan.... these people are sick of taxes period,,, no matter there color....

    August 4, 2010 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. one voice

    These dummies are paid big bucks to incite lies for their corrupt capitalist masters. Don't believe a word of this crap.

    August 4, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  4. T

    I smell a RAT....thing that make you go.......SMOKE SCREEN

    August 4, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. Pragmatic

    "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...."

    None so blind as those who will not see ... we've seen the signs at tea party rallies ... not all the signs but too many. But denial is more than a river in Egypt ... its the conservative way of dealing with the modern world.

    August 4, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  6. claire Solt

    The rich irony of having the head of NAACP named "JEALOUS" amuses me.

    August 4, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. Stacey

    Sorry Tea Party but I still consider you a racist right winged extremist group no matter how many African-American conservatives stand with you. Those African-American conservatives were not at the health care town hall meetings I attended when these tea baggers yelled racial slurs at me and my 15 year old daughter just for merely being black. Anyone who was black outside that town hall meeting got attacked with vocal, racial slurs. Sorry, but these guys haven't convinced me at all.

    August 4, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Yeah, ok

    We have 24 black people say theres no racism, shoot i guess mystery solved. Lets pack it up and go home folks! Nothing to see here. If it wasn't for those darned pictures, voice clips, speeches and blog entries that didn't point otherwise!

    It still cracks me up that they still have to use adjectives like freedom loving, country/america loving, consititution loving citizens just standing up for what they believe in. Can't blame them, no sir! In fact, if you do then you're against all of those things!

    August 4, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. Take America Back

    Wait a minute! How can this be???? Such a Racist Organization......with blacks????
    All I see in the Great Tea Party are AMERICANS!
    Sorry you Left Wing Liberal Democrat Hypocrites.....the "Racist" accusation isn't working......try another one. Like maybe; "It's Bush's fault." Oh yeah, you've worn that one out and no one believes it anymore.
    Democratic Play Book: Page 1b (out of all 3 pages) "When you cannot prove your point or if you do not have an intelligent answer....PLAY THE RACE-CARD".

    August 4, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  10. drew

    With the hundreds of cameras rolling during the lawmakers march to vote for this travesty of a bill called health care reform NOT ONE picked up on ANY racist chant, NOT ONE. It was all trumped up. Right now Ben Jealous is reading this and thinking to himself that these fine African-Americans are actually UT's. Disgusting.

    August 4, 2010 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. Carmen, Miami FL

    There most definitely are racist elements within the Teabagger movement. Check out the signs that pop up at their rallies. These people are idiots, which just means they should fit right in with the other teabaggers.

    August 4, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. usualone

    These conservatives must be the same folk as the birthers. There is nothing wrong with a black person opposing this administration, but please pick another vehicle for your arguments. Yes, it may be a few who are in the Tea Party who are "nuts" but you don't want to be linked with even one of them.

    August 4, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. water bearer

    "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."

    That's what I love (sarcasm) about Republicans. They think all they have to do is deny that something happened and everybody should believe them! Wonder how many of these FOOLS are birthers too??

    August 4, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  14. Jilli

    Good, 10 blacks out of how many millions of black people. I'm not impressed.

    August 4, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. DJ in TX

    No one has said the Tea Party movement is racist as a whole. Even before the NAACP said anything, I've always said, there are racist elements within their ranks. I'm black and do NOT believe the Tea Party is racist, but when they allowed people at their rallies to carry racist signs, it branded the whole organization. And yes, the timeing didn't help either.

    But there's no way, they can say, they are not aligned with the GOP. ALL of the candidates they've backed, except for one, has been within the GOP.

    You have a little over 2 dozen African Americans on the stage. I thought the movement boast millions. I would be willing to bet, that there isn't 1% of the Tea Party that is African American. Personally, I don't care. I don't agree with the Tea Party and I think some (not all) of their views are extreme (abolishing the Fed or the Dept of Education). The real things that gets me is how the rant against entitlements, but want to keep Social Security and Medicare as is. Those are the two largest entitlements and the ones that take the most money.

    August 4, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  16. XWngLady

    These clowns have just proved my point....The so-called black conservatives were nowhere to be found and few and far between and no one even knew of or saw them until the heat got turned up on the Tea Parties' racist tendencies...and NOW they just appear, as if there are just throngs of blacks supporting the Tea Party.....The same thing with Steele. The Republicans wouldn't have even given a first thought of putting a black man in charge of the RNC if Barack Obama hadn't won the Presidency. These "we're the right kind of negro" negros don't even know that they are only NOW being paraded in front of America as if to say, "See, we have a few blacks that support us".....While 10% of the entire Tea Party movement admits to being racists. 10% of the Tea Party (by its own admission) doesn't even like these very black folks BECAUSE of the color of their skin....yeah, but the TEA PARTY isn't racist....RRRiiiiight!

    August 4, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  17. Who Cares?

    LOL..They found 24 out of the supposed 10 million Tea-baggers eh?

    Odd how I have never seen a single brown or black face in any tea-baggers rally picture.

    August 4, 2010 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  18. vic

    Something doesn’t smell good

    August 4, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  19. All the news that is fit to omit

    Non Conservative black folks, how has voting in lockstep with Democrats improved your way of life?

    At what point do you realize they GIVE you just enough to get by and in turn they accept your vote while they GET RICH?

    I respect all of the folks on this stage along with Allen West of Florida a rising star in my party.

    You want to talk about hate, these folks get it from their own people and get called sellouts, Uncle Toms and Auntie Tammy's just because they dare think outside the supposed black box.

    Conservative blacks are running for office in record numbers this year and liberals, be afraid, be very afraid.

    Teach a man to fish, he eats for life for life and is free, give a man a fish and he is beholden to libtards for generations of nothingness and empty promises.

    August 4, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  20. BeverlyNC

    Sorry – the Tea Party is full of hate and racism and having a group of blacks pretend it's not doesn't change the truth.

    Tea baggers are primarily low-educated older white people who have been made terrified of an intelligent black President by the bigoted Republican Party.
    Tea baggers are also extremists who want to tear our government apart but with no clue on what they would do instead. They scream about socialism but don't know that means the end to their Social Security, Medicare, public schools, fire and police protection, interstate highways, clean water, inspected food and all other government services who provide very beneficial protections and ease of life for Americans.
    Tea baggers are violent and carry loaded weapons to their non-rallies of issueless whining. All the death threats and shots into the offices of Democrats leaders were traced to tea baggers and the FBI arrested them.
    NO ONE is going to vote for a tea bagger candidate. They are lunatics. Just listen to the laughable garbage coming out of the mouths of Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Michelle Bachman, and other Republican nutjobs.
    Democrats are the only leaders delivering solutions for the benefit of the People. They have passed more than 200 laws to help working families, stop abuses by large corporations, give us consumer protection, help save homes, extend unemployment benefits, require equal pay for women, and stand up for the Gulf states by not letting BP slither away without paying for the criminal destruction they caused.

    Democrats WORK for the People. Republicans work for big corporations who buy their votes to betray the People. Republicans are anti-American and are traitors to the middle class. We need to get these do-nothing fear, hate, and racist Republicans so we can keep moving our country forward and elevate the middle class.

    Republicans and their extremists are dangerous for America.

    August 4, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  21. REG in AZ

    It is really hard to understand accepting either blatantly illogical and/or belligerently dishonest presentations aimed to sway people’s thinking and to manipulate public opinion. The problems and costs we have incurred – the real estate fiasco, the financial crisis, the loss of jobs and the declining economy, as well as the needed reforms (Health Care, financial, political, education,,) and including the irresponsible neglect of our infrastructure, of a sound energy policy, of Global Warming and of other important responsibilities, besides the flagrant starting of one falsely justified war and the past purposeful neglect of one critical war – have in every case, without exception, benefited the very few and been deceptively rationalized to the many who actually then suffer and pay the costs. There has been an abundance of subterfuge to sell the public that ‘deregulation’, ‘open markets’ and ‘small’ government, rationalized as ‘conservative’ philosophy, are the way to go, yet all that has ever happened was that government’s lax oversight, non-enforcement and repeal of regulations resulted in run-away greed, gross dishonesty and self-indulgence by the few, with the majority then absorbing the costs and problems. We have seen this cycle repeated in the Savings & Loan crisis, Bank crisis, dotcom melt down, real estate crisis, financial crisis and the economy melt down; again and again, with the few always gaining significantly and the majority loosing greatly. Like the outlawed ‘pyramid schemes’ and as with the anti-trust laws it should be recognized that human nature demands that we have laws, police and an enforcement system to protect the many against being exploited by the few. Throughout 2001 – 2008 government catered to the interests of the few and proved beyond any doubt that the ‘trickle down’ theory is a fraud. When government neglects to protect the many against exploitation by the few and instead rationalizes their actions, they are then actually co-conspirators in the crimes being committed. All of that is simply obvious common sense.

    It isn’t a Republican v Democratic or conservative v liberal/socialistic issue but rather an issue of the majority needing to recognize and reject the con that is being aimed at disguising and rationalizing the abuse that favors only Special Interests and the influential, powerful and extremely wealthy few. The politicians, whether Republican, Tea Party, Democrat, Independent or whatever, who support any of this for their own interests need to be identified and denied success. It doesn’t matter if Republican, Tea Partier, Democrat or anything else, each voter must rationally and objectively put aside their biases, prejudices, limited self-interests and emotional attachments so they can’t be manipulated into accepting the criticizing and obstructing of the real efforts to resolve the problems with that resulting in their voting against their own best interests and allowing the return to more of the same that got us the problems. The critics aggressively try to explode the issues, which likely could benefit from withheld bipartisan fine tuning, into motivating emotions, irresponsibly pulling at people’s attachments, intending to deceptively justify having their way, which favors only the few. Those perpetuating this aggressive con have no answers to the problems but rather only plans to continue where they left off. Their interest and intent is to deceptively manipulate the voters to allow them to regain control and to once again substantially benefit at great cost to everyone else. This is the drastically dishonest and totally illogical reality that each voter, regardless of political preference, needs to see, understand and firmly reject, as that is the only way to protect against returning to more of the same, the same which would now be a complete disaster.

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

    This just means that we as a race have arrived. We have as much right to be confused, deluded, and blind as the next guy.

    August 4, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  23. T'SAH from Virginia

    "...a group of African-American conservatives joined hands in a chorus saying: "we are not racists."

    Oh Well!!!!!! I take the word of "2 Dozen African Americans" that claim they are not racist!!!!

    It may be TRUE that they NEVER encountered racism but does it speak for the entire TEA PARTY EXPRESS!!???

    August 4, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  24. XWngLady

    "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."

    OOOOh, two whole dozen. What a farce...Oh, and Alan Keyes was there?...enough said.

    August 4, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. alpha_nu_916

    *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.*

    oh brother . . . if they are independent minded, i am mickey mouse.

    August 4, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
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