Opinion: Time for Tea Party Leaders to Act on Racism
I'd like to think so, but with each passing day, I grow less hopeful. More times than not, when matters regarding bigotry and discrimination are reported on, the discussion is marred in rhetoric designed to evoke emotion rather than provoke any meaningful thought.
Look no further than the cries of black tea party members who denounce claims that the movement they pledge allegiance to is a hotbed for racists.
As they gathered last week in Washington for a news conference, Lloyd Marcus, a spokesman for the Black Conservative Coalition, said, "These people do not oppose Barack Obama because of his skin color. They oppose him because of his policies."
Even if you disagree with the statement, it is a succinct way of conveying the overall sentiment of the group. Naturally, it would be bogged down by what was said next.
The organization's president, Kevin Jackson, lamented, "Democrats have re-enslaved America," while other tea party speakers branded Democrats "white supremacists and elitists."
Not to be outdone, Alan Keyes -- who is taken about as seriously in American politics as Levi Johnston -- said the president "got elected on a virulent form of racism" by exploiting his race during the 2008 campaign.
Mr. Keyes should've shot for a much more convincing argument, like say, "Nana-nana boo-boo."
Here black members had the opportunity to speak intelligently in refutation of the cries of racism long plaguing the controversial group, but instead opted to engage in race-baiting language.
To be fair, not every claim of racism leveled against tea partiers is valid.
This is evident in a retraction issued by The New York Times in which the paper noted that there is no proof that tea party supporters hurled racial epithets at Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., as previously reported.
And true enough, some people are far too quick to brand something as racist.
However, it's time for tea party members to be frank about the racial attitudes of some in its fold.
Earlier this year, a survey by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality found that 25 percent of tea party supporters have a "higher probability of being racially resentful than those who are not tea party supporters."
That resentment has been made clear by many members on multiple occasions since the group first gained national attention.
When it comes to political matters in America, the substantive consistently gives way to the superficial, which is why it's easy to fathom how racial resentment could cause a group initially advertised as a populist rally against big government to shift in a direction that has little to do with taxes or spending.
So despite cries to the contrary, there is ample reason to discuss the role white resentment has played in the advancement of the movement.
Is the entire group racist? No. Has it benefited from racism by way of increased membership? Yes, but if it no longer wants to be divisive, action is needed.
Expel the racists and tell remaining members -- black and white -- to drop the racial rhetoric and rally behind the group's core principles.
Inform people like Mark Williams -- who has already announced plans to rejoin the tea party weeks after resigning over an incendiary and racially derogatory blog post he authored -- that they don't represent them and their ideals.
Otherwise, it will become increasingly difficult for tea party supporters to argue that they aren't the company they keep.