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August 24, 2010: NAACP President Notes Sharp Differences between Tea Party Leaders, Supporters, Praises Members as ‘Sincere [and] Principled’

In his foreward to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights’s (IREHR) multi-part report on the “tea party” movement (see August 24, 2010), NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous draws a sharp distinction between the various leaders and orchestrators of the movement, and its rank-and-file members. “We know the majority of tea party supporters are sincere, principled people of good will,” he begins. Unfortunately, he continues, many tea party leaders are unrepentant racists, with strong ties to white supremacist and far-right militia movements. Jealous asks the leaders and members of the various tea party organizations to “take additional steps to distance themselves from those tea party leaders who espouse racist ideas, advocate violence, or are formally affiliated with white supremacist organizations.” Jealous notes that the delegates to the latest NAACP convention passed a resolution “condemning outspoken racist elements within the tea party, and called upon tea party leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use white supremacist language in their signs and speeches, and those tea party leaders who would subvert their own movement by spreading racism” (see July 13, 2010), a resolution triggered by a wave of racist and homophobic attacks on blacks, Democrats, gays, and others by tea party members (see April 15, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 11, 2009, September 2009, September 14, 2009, March 16, 2010, March 20, 2010, March 24-25, 2010, and May 14, 2010). While many tea party leaders defended their organizations’ and members’ actions, or denied them, or called the targets racists themselves (see July 14, 2010), Jealous notes that “tea party leaders began to quietly take steps toward actively policing explicitly racist activity within their ranks” (see March 25, 2010). Perhaps the most visible of these steps, Jealous notes, was the expulsion of Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams for his repeated and inflammatory racist and anti-Muslim statements (see July 17-18, 2010). The Williams expulsion proved three things, Jealous writes: the tea party claims that the movement is too loosely configured to moderate its leaders’ actions were wrong; there exists a demonstrable rift between tea party leaders who espouse racist rhetoric and those who condemn it; and the NAACP resolution had an impact. While the tea party groups were taking some steps to battle racism within their ranks, Jealous notes, various tea party organizations rushed to highlight their relatively few non-white members and proclaim their racial and religious diversity. However, these first steps are not enough, Jealous writes. Many tea party organizations are tied to openly racist groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, he notes, and concludes that the IREHR report “serves as a cautionary reminder that Mark Williams is not unique within tea party leadesrhip circles and that ties between tea party factions and acknowledged racist groups endure.” (Jealous 8/24/2010)


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