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NAACP challenges Tea Party racists

Published Jul 23, 2010 7:01 AM

At the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held in Kansas City the week of July 12, the largest civil rights organization in the U.S. went on record through a resolution condemning the racist elements within the right-wing Tea Party movement.

The resolution was approved July 13 and affirmed that the NAACP “calls on the Tea Party and all people of good will to repudiate the racist element and activities within the Tea Party,” according to Hilary Shelton, who heads the Washington bureau of the organization.

At rallies and through statements by Tea Party leaders, racially motivated claims and epithets have been put forth against President Barack Obama, African-American political officials in the U.S. Congress, members of the lesbian/gay/bi/trans community, immigrants, women’s rights activists and others who are perceived as liberals, progressives or socialists.

The Christian Science Monitor in a July 14 article on the NAACP convention put it this way: “Charges of racism have surfaced in the past, largely in response to individuals at Tea Party meetings making comments or displaying signs that minority groups find offensive. Some African-American lawmakers, including Rep. John Lewis (D) of Georgia, a hero of the civil rights movement, have said that Tea Party activists yelled racial epithets or spat at them as they arrived at the Capitol for the final vote on health care reform legislation in March.”

In response to the passage of the resolution by the NAACP, high-profile Tea Party members and supporters dismissed the allegations of racism as false. Former Alaskan governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who is often a mouthpiece for the right-wing group, issued a statement saying that she was “saddened by the NAACP’s claim that patriotic Americans ... are somehow racists.” (Christian Science Monitor, July 14)

The increasing criticism of the Tea Party for racism has contributed to ongoing internal tensions and factionalism within the right-wing movement. The leader of one of the more extreme elements of the movement, the Tea Party Express, was expelled in mid-July by another faction, the National Tea Party Federation, for racist comments made in response to the NAACP convention resolution.

David Webb, a spokesman for the National Tea Party Federation, appeared on the CBS news program “Face the Nation” on July 18 where he announced the expulsion of the rival Tea Party Express.

Mark Williams, who heads the Tea Party Express and coordinates Republican Party-financed tours across the U.S., stated on National Public Radio that the NAACP makes “more money off of race than any slave trader.” (FoxNews.com, July 19) Williams, who has also spoken of Muslims in disparaging terms, placed a satirical letter on his website parodying NAACP President Ben Jealous in a fictional letter to Abraham Lincoln requesting the reinstatement of chattel slavery.

Confusion versus clarity

The right-wing Tea Party movement in the U.S. is attempting to cause confusion and promote divisions amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Utilizing racism and other forms of bigotry, the assortment of neofascist groupings falsely places the blame for the worsening conditions faced by working-class and middle-class people on the Obama administration and its purported “socialist” policies.

The fact that Obama is the first African-American president in the U.S. does not sit well with many whites in the conservative political camp. The Southern Poverty Law Center has issued numerous reports over the last two years indicating there has been a rise in racist and far-right groups throughout the country.

The growth of these groups can be heavily attributed to the role of the big-business-owned media which promote the Tea Party as a legitimate and rapidly growing political tendency within the U.S.

They are labeled “legitimate,” yet some Tea Party leaders and politicians have called for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, claiming that the bill, which was won because of the mass struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, is unconstitutional.

The Tea Party was featured in the right-wing attempts to disrupt public hearings around the Obama-sponsored health care plan that was passed by Congress earlier this year. Its role was to strip away any notion of a universal right to health care for people living in the U.S.

In mid-July a billboard sponsored by the North Iowa Tea Party linked President Obama to German fascist leader Adolph Hitler as well as V.I. Lenin, the leader of the socialist Russian Revolution. The billboard drew sharp criticism from throughout the country.

It showed photographs of all three men with misleading, incorrect labels and the phrase “Radical Leaders Prey On The Fearful & Naïve.” The group’s co-founder, Bob Johnson, said the billboard was intended to send an anti-socialist message to the public but the intent was lost through the provocative imagery.

This assertion, like the billboard itself, blurs the critical differences between socialism, fascism and capitalist democracy and is meant to cause confusion as well as demonize Obama. The Obama administration is by no means socialist and has upheld the right of banks and oil companies to continue their practices that have contributed to the current economic decline in the U.S. and around the world.

It was the socialist former Soviet Union during World War II that sacrificed the most people in the struggle to defeat fascism in Europe. The false notions of Obama being a socialist and a fascist seek to fuel racism and anti-communist hysteria in the U.S.

It is the obligation of progressive publications to expose the right wing for its divisive politics as well as provide clarity on what socialism really is and why such a cooperative economic system is the only viable alternative to the capitalism and imperialism that are destroying the planet and its people.