August 4th, 2010
04:01 PM ET
10 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. Duck Fallas

    Wow! They got all 12 of them together at once!

    August 4, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  2. norma

    So, the people at this event are fine with the banners held at tea party rallies that have racists statements and pictures? Talk about self-hatred. Sad...oh, and Alan Keyes is flat out crazy (and still a bit upset about the spanking he got from Obama in the Illinois Senate race).

    August 4, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. Naqib

    Eh Oh.... they will label you all racist...

    That's all they've got... Blame Bush... call anyone who disagrees a racist... while the economy fails, we go more and more in debt, fund parties, unions and campaigns while we sink.

    The Dems have run congress since 2006 when things were awesome... no after they've trashed it all they want to point fingers...

    Watching them get run out in November will be fun... take time off work (work is something Republicans do), get some popcorn and watch the crying

    August 4, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. norma

    “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

    The people at this event may not be racist, but their silence to those hurling of racists and homophobic epithets at sitting members of our government is a tragedy.

    August 4, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  5. Xan

    Just because there are some blacks involved, does not mean that the overall Tea Party majority is fueled by hatred, intolerance and bigotry.

    Uncle Tom was the first one to make sure that masters field hands would not run amok.

    12 people do not speak for a nation of millions.

    August 4, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  6. Get A Grip

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to these brave Americans for seeing and speaking the truth!

    Wish I were in the same room as these folks so I could shake their hands and thank them.

    August 4, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. Bill Taylor

    What a joke.

    August 4, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  8. get real

    The Republican party's only answer to President Obama is to put a few crazy black people (Michael Steele, Alan Keyes, etc...) on a false pedestal. It didn't work in Illinois back in 2004. It didn't work in 2009, and it won't work now.

    August 4, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  9. Steph

    There are a total of 24 conservative Black people in the US. Who knew?

    August 4, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  10. It's the only Game the left has

    Hmmm, not many liberals on this article claiming the only card they can, against any group that believes different from them.

    August 4, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  11. Laverne

    Yeah, and they probably are the only African Americans in the entire tea party nationwide! Out of millions, less than 20 people, boy the tea party sure is diversified!

    August 4, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  12. SanFran

    As we have seen in recent weeks, there are far more racists in the NAACP than there are in the Tea Party.

    August 4, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  13. Al-NY,NY

    The T-baggers ARE associated with the GOP so anybody that says otherwise is lying. As for not being racist, when I see rallyers grabbing signs and confronting people carrying placards with racist overtones, THEN I will say they aren't. Until then, as long as the baggers stand toe to toe with the fringe element, it's a valid argument

    August 4, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. kat

    Good for these fine people. Maybe now all those idiots who want to throw the 'race' card whenever someone disagrees with them can move on.

    August 4, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  15. hobart

    Gee, then I guess you all deny Mark Williams even exists as one of your former leaders, who response to the NAACP absolutely IS racist.

    And I suppose you deny that folks at your rallies carried explicitly racist signs, called African American Congressmen the N-word including during racist death threats on their answering machine. And you have the audacity so say there's no proof any of this. LIARS! The proof is in all the videotapes, sound tracks, answering machines. Moreover, I've seen AND heard it at your rallies in my city.

    And I suppose you still think Shirley Sherrod is a racist and that Andrew Breitbart is a hero.

    The Tea Party is one of the largest frauds ever perpetrated on the American People. You claim to represent Main Street American, when in fact you all have high paying jobs, homes, investment portfolios, and health care. If anything, the two stimulus packages (Bush, Obama) saved your bank accounts. You got yours, but no one else deserves theirs. Thanks to your loathsome policies during 8 years of Bush/McConnell/Boehner, we had economic collapse with many of us losing our jobs, life savings, homes and health care. To you, we're just collateral damage.

    In addition to welcoming racists in your midst, you now target Latino Americans and Mulsim Americans for your wrath.

    Why do you hate America?

    August 4, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  16. sonny chapman

    It took the Tea Party three weeks to "round up" 12 Black Tea Partiers.

    August 4, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  17. kravitz

    I have an uncle. And his name isn't Tom.

    August 4, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. disenchanted taxpayer

    Why does race always have to be thrown around when a person of any color disagrees with anyone other ??? This is all about political ideology and fairness in reporting the news of the day as it is. When the main stream media becomes a propaganda machine and fails to report 1 million TEA Party activists across this Great Land on April 15th protesting the excess taxation, yet will make a big deal of 200 illegal immigration supports; something is wrong with that picture.

    August 4, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  19. NVa Native

    So the next teabagger rally will not include old white people carrying around rascist signs?

    Or even better – how about the teabaggers denounce the rascist remarks of Glen Beck, Shawn Hanity, Rush Limpball, and other Republican or conservative celebrities – that would confirm that they won't tolerate rascism.

    Won't happen.

    August 4, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  20. Liz the First

    Maybe these folks aren't racists, and maybe there are a few whites in the teabagger movement that aren't racist, but so many are that it fouls the whole group. the evidence is in your face. guess these folks refuse to see it. just like a lot of right wingnuts refuse to see the climate change evidence that's staring us all in the face. must be nice to pick and choose what your 'reality' is. the rest of us are stuck with the real reality.

    August 4, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  21. jeff jackson, alabama

    I told you weeks ago that a huge number of blacks were
    in the tea party movement.
    This thing of being falsely accused of being racist just because
    you are conservative has got to stop. If you don't believe
    in wholesale abortion and you believe in God and you don't believe
    in higher taxes, you are supposed to be a racist ?
    Ridiculous !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 4, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  22. Peter s

    Its just like refuting you are not negroid?

    August 4, 2010 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  23. Michael in Houston

    The ONLY people I know who are in the Tea party are not only white, they are also practicing and outspoken racists.

    The tea party may be wishing to run to center now that the elections are coming in a few months and try to portray themselves as welcoming all but we are not gullible idiots that can spoon fed this garbage. Its nothing more then an attempt to brand themselves something different then they are.

    Nice try though.

    August 4, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  24. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    How much did they pay the "brothas"?
    How hooked-up with promises of future this that and the other were they?

    Any PERSON, especially a person of color that denies racism within the Tea Party is lying their you-know-what off.

    Hell Stevie Wonder can see the racism that exists in the Tea Party.

    Does the expression "Not every brother is a brother" mean anything?
    How about "Crabs in a barrell"?

    August 4, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  25. John Hennessy Black

    What is the issue here?

    Pee Party people are so overtly racist it would take a person with an IQ of 10, blind and deaf not to recognize it...

    All the Pee Party meetings, denials, simply can't and will not change that fact!

    Don't we have REAL ISSUES in America to discuss, rather than giving these bigots time and ink?

    August 4, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
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