The NAACP today called out the Tea Party movement for having racist elements during their annual conference. CBS News reports:
Versions of the resolution condemned "explicitly racist behavior" in the Tea Party movement and called on people to "repudiate" what it described as racist elements of the Tea Party. The final text of the resolution has not yet been made available, however, and that language may have changed.
As the Associated Press notes, NAACP President Ben Jealous has said the Tea Party movement needs to "be responsible members of this democracy and make sure they don't tolerate bigots or bigotry among their members."
Of course, Tea Party leaders reject the notion. But the NAACP is 100% spot on. After all, this is the movement that has produced leaders such Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for United States Senate in Kentucky. Dr. Paul has said he wouldn't have supported the Civil Rights Act.
Tea Party rallies have been replete with racist signs and slogans. After the passage of the president's health care bill people attending a Tea Party rally yelled "Nigger" at members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Yes, the Tea Party movement has a problem with racism. I don't believe that all members of the Tea Party movement are racist but clearly many are and their leaders must condemn such behavior instead of embracing it. At the very least, they create at atmosphere in their rhetoric that inflames racial tensions.
The National Council of Churches USA issued a statement last year during the health care debate with advice that the Tea Party movement and all Americans would be wise to heed:
National Council of Churches, USA An Open Letter Concerning Civility in Public Discourse
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.” Isaiah 1:18 (RSV)
The current national health care reform debate is a reflection of the broad diversity of views held by the American people. This diversity can be seen not only in relation to health care provisions themselves but, also as regards the proper role of government and even the perceived definition of community. This breadth of perspectives constitutes a rich heritage of insight and experience and is a cherished resource to the ordering of our common life.
Yet, recent days have offered a sobering portrait of a debate grown rancorous and acrimonious. This clash of views demeans the dialogue and ultimately risks subverting the democratic process itself. Individuals cannot express their best hopes and acknowledge their deepest fears within a climate of intimidation and character assassination, and all too often this climate is the product of racism and xenophobia. Too much is at stake for the good of our society for us to continue down this dangerous path. The essential nature of our national compact, to enfranchise the views of all, is imperiled in a hostile and suspicious environment. In this moment, then, we call the members of our churches, our political leaders, and all people of good will to somber reflection on the ways we might restore dignity and civility to our national discourse both as a matter of social ethics and to bolster the highest traditions of democratic process.
The prophet Isaiah (1:18) declares God’s message to the people to “Come let us reason together”. This injunction might serve us well in the present moment. Reason, (yakah), in this passage does not refer to a dispassionate meeting of the minds but, rather calls for convincing, persuading and presenting a case for a point of view. Vigorous, principled debate advances our thinking and clarifies the challenges before us. Respect for neighbor strengthens the fabric of our communities.
Let us then, as a people, draw from our deepest traditions of faith and heritage to gain a renewed sense of community marked by honesty and mutual respect. Let our moments of rigorous debate be tempered with a profound sense of the dignity and worth of each person. Let us debate ideas on their merits and exercise restraint in expression of our own best conceptions. Such a disciplined dialogue holds great promise, honoring our differences and confirming our perception that we are a people joined in our mutual aspiration to live the lives for which we were created.
Let us as member churches and brothers and sisters of other living faiths model the civility to which our sacred texts command. Throughout its history, the conciliar ecumenical movement has provided a common venue for persons to express and debate differing viewpoints in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Let us make clear to ourselves and others those marks of civility that represent the best of our faiths and that can serve as foundational to rigorous, honest public discourse for the common good.
The Tea Party could do their part to promote the common good by fighting against the racism so prevalent in their midst. Conservative views put forth by the Tea Party movement - limited government, etc. - are not inherently racist but it seems clear that much of the passion that drives their movement is fueled by racism and hatred toward others.
The NAACP is right to name the sin for what it is.