Tea Partiers: Racists in the ranks?

A resolution passed by the NAACP asks Tea Partiers to denounce the racism of some of its members.

The NAACP’s “glory days” are officially over, said Mona Charen in National Review. Once a noble and courageous civil-rights organization, the NAACP last week completed its long transition to a grubby “liberal advocacy group” when it voted to condemn supposedly “racist” elements of the conservative Tea Party movement. Tea Party rallies have been attended by tens of thousands of frustrated Americans of all races, standing up against Obama-care, federal bailouts, massive deficits, and the vast expansion of government. Only a “tiny handful” of offensive signs have shown up in dozens of rallies. Let’s not be naïve, said Armstrong Williams in The Washington Times. The NAACP, at this point, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, which needs African-American votes, “and lots of them.” So it’s attempting to portray President Obama’s critics as some collective “antebellum whitey,” and thereby fire up the Democratic base.

Not so, said E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. As NAACP President Ben Jealous pointed out last week, the resolution calls upon Tea Partiers, as “people of goodwill,” merely to denounce those few crackpots who show up at rallies carrying signs comparing President Obama to a monkey or a witch doctor, or who accuse him of hating white people. It’s more than just a few crackpots, said Joan Walsh in Salon.com. Mark Williams, leader of Florida’s Tea Party Express, this week proved the NAACP’s point by publishing a bizarre “parody letter” from Jealous to President Abraham Lincoln, begging him not to free the slaves because it would mean “we Coloreds … having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards.” Just as the NAACP recommended, the National Tea Party Federation promptly expelled Williams.

Good for them, said John McWhorter in The New Republic Online. But let’s remember that we’ve come a long way on race, and now have a black president. Human nature being what it is, people opposed to that president’s policies will sometimes express their anger by making mention of his race. That’s unfortunate, but by “sounding aggrieved whenever someone says or does something tacky,” we’re only preserving the power of certain words to shock and injure. It’s about time we got over the fantasy of an America where there are “no racist sentiments of any kind, ever.”

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