From EbonyJet — If you’re gonna have a party, you might as well make some noise, right? The NAACP did just that this week when it voted to approve a resolution condemning racist elements within the burgeoning Tea Party Movement. Essentially, the NAACP called on Tea Party leaders to repudiate racist elements that seem to be prominent at various Tea Party public rallies across the country.
To what racism is the NAACP is referring? Try these photos posted on the NAACP’s website. Or how about someone from the Tea Party calling Congressman John Lewis(D-GA) – John Lewis, a student leader from the Civil Rights Movement, a “nigger.” Or spitting on Congressman Emanual Cleaver (D-MO). Or faxing nooses to the office of Representative James Clyburn (D-SC), the highest ranking African American in Congress. Or T-shirts for sale at a July 4 tea party rally in Charlotte that showed Obama standing in front of the White House, labeled “da Crib.” Or a sign being held at a tax rally last week telling the President to “go back to Kenya”. And these are just the incidents launched against national political leaders.
Now, you have to wonder what goes on in the mind of someone who took the time to go to an arts and crafts store in order to buy sign boards, used a magic marker to draft these comments, draw caricatures, and then show up in public holding these signs for the world to see (and photograph). So was the NAACP wrong to call upon Tea Party leaders to reject these kinds of comments?
Apparently, Sarah Palin thinks so. Palin took to Facebook to announce she was “saddened by the NAACP’s claim that patriotic Americans who stand up for … Constitutional rights are somehow ‘racists.’” She goes on to invoke Ronald Reagan into her criticism as she claimed that “honest, freedom-loving patriots” don’t deserve to be labeled as racists.”
Sarah, did you know that the full text of the resolution hasn’t been released to the public? That NAACP President Benjamin Jealous merely issued a statement summarizing the essence of the resolution? Better yet, did you read or understand his statement? Here’s a portion of it for you: “It’s time for the tea party to be responsible members of this democracy and make sure they don’t tolerate bigots or bigotry among their members. We don’t have a problem with the tea party’s existence. We have an issue with their acceptance and welcoming of white supremacists into their organizations.” Now, where did he call the Tea Party movement racist? He correctly called upon Tea Party leaders to renounce racist statements and elements of its collective expression of their agenda. Last I checked, Sarah ,you fashioned yourself as a supporter and leader of the Tea Party movement. So when are you going to accept the NAACP’s challenge?
Problem is folks like Sarah Palin treat African Americans like the kid from that movie who said he sees dead people. “I see and hear racism.” As if the expressions Black persons perceive as racist are just a figment of their collective imaginations. Because what they see and hear really isn’t racism but someone exercising their Constitutional right of free speech. Believe it or not, there are limits to free speech, like uttering “fighting words,” “incitement to violence,” “defamation,” and “threats.” Arguably, racist speech fits into all of these categories.
The next excuse you hear is that the statements didn’t carry racist intent. What exactly was the intent underlying, for example, sending a noose to a person of color’s office? Moreover, what does that say about how ingrained racism is in our society that buried deep within certain folks’ subconscious are these thoughts and ways of expressing themselves?
We’re often told slavery was a long time ago and “my ancestors didn’t own slaves”. Or Jim Crow has been outlawed. Or that we have civil rights laws. Or that we elected a Black President.
Excuse me, Sarah, but neither you nor folks like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Michelle Bachmann get to tell Black folks that what they see and hear are not racism. See when you’ve been enslaved, lynched, lampooned for your skin color, and otherwise victimized by discrimination, you know racism when you see and hear it. You don’t have to hear the words “coon” or “nigger” to understand that you are being subjected to racism. Because it’s not necessarily or solely the terminology or statement but the spirit underlying it.