Update @ 11:40 ET: By the way, if we need any more proof of the absurdity of the debate over the Tea Party’s race madness, here’s Tea Party Express spokesperson Mark Williams responding to the NAACP on NPR this morning: “You’re dealing with people who are professional race-baiters, who make a very good living off this kind of thing. They make more money off of race than any slave trader ever.” (Emphasis added.) So, yeah.
Again, we debate whether the Tea Party is racist. I won’t rehash what we’ve already written: Perhaps no story betrays the post-race lie as plainly as the ongoing media babble over whether race motivates the Tea Party madness. Rather, I’m struck by the NAACP’s choice to make this the biggest story coming out of its 101st annual convention.
My heart sank as I read the news that a bunch of civil rights activists would get together and debate passing a resolution—be it resolved!—on the Tea Party’s racism. There seems no better way for the NAACP to invite the rote critique it gets this time every summer: That it’s an overly bureaucratic throwback with limited relevance to the challenges people of color face today. (And, of course, the right has gleefully used the moment to absurdly tar the organization as a mouthpiece of the Obama White House.)
The worst part is they didn’t even reach a clear conclusion on the matter. Rather, the NAACP has resolved that the Tea Party must not allow bigots to associate themselves with the movement. As NAACP President Ben Jealous said, “What we take issue with is 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 place for racism & anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry in their movement.” Of course, the full board must now vote on the important declaration for it to become official. Watch out world!
Jealous took the NAACP’s helm with lots of new, great ideas. His effort to push criminal justice to the top of the civil rights agenda is long overdue. And his framing of the organization’s role as an advocate for justice, not just equality is spot on. He’s got a tall job making the case for those priorities, both inside the organization and in black America overall. Too bad today’s headlines aren’t on that effort. Or on the NAACP’s efforts to hold Wells Fargo accountable for predatory lending. Or something about the many pressing reforms the NAACP could and should be leading Washington toward. Anything other than a bunch of race activists seriously debating a resolution about the Tea Party’s racism.
Photo by Getty Images/Justin Sullivan