Earlier this year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed leadership to what they are calling "the next generation of civil and human rights activists." Forty-four year old Roslyn M. Brock is now Chairman of the venerable organization and 39 year-old Benjamin Todd Jealous is CEO. So, many are wondering what was in their minds when they allowed a resolution during their conference in Kansas City, Mo. calling on Tea Party activists to "repudiate the racist element and activities" within the political movement. Their reports alleged that the Tea Party has used racial epithets against President Barack Obama and verbally and physically abused African-American members of Congress. The resolution's actual language will remain secret until it is approved later this year by the national board.
Reactions to the resolution proposals are flying fast and furious. For an organization with the legacy of the NAACP to say that the Tea Party Movement has some racist elements is like saying "institutionalized racism exits in America." The NAACP leaders sat themselves up for ridicule across a spectrum of mediums that allow the institutions of America's institutionalized system to say that such an aberration "does not exist." Racism is alive and living across America, that there is racism present within some quarters of the Tea Party movement shouldn't really surprise anyone. The surprise is the NAACP attacking a popular movement instead of aligning with them. The Tea Party is a national political success. It is a protest movement against government, and its practices, that now has millions of members whose philosophy is much more libertarian than racist.
The Tea Party has fundraising apparatus that could benefit the NAACP. Roslyn Brock and Ben Jealous are at its helm because the NAACP is losing its membership base and needs more attention among younger and upwardly-mobile African-Americans, for whom the civil rights movement is more a chapter in a history text than a searing memory. Brock's goal is "to ensure that the policies, programs and politics of the NAACP are relevant to get young people involved." Surely, pursuits they "get involved" should be positive as opposed to negative.
Political parties help define potential voters' beliefs and positions on important issues and use their strength in numbers to get candidates who share those views elected into office. The momentum that is fueling the Tea Party is based on similar frustrations with ineffective government that Blacks have. Black or White, Obama, or a Democratic-led Congress, positive changes are needed. It's not just racism that cause millions of Americans to hold the President's and Members of Congress' job performances in low esteem.
Ms. Brock and Mr. Jealous may want to join with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in what he could be "a relevant moment" in American politics. Instead of going against the tide, the NAACP may want to go with it. An early Tea Party leader, Gingrich wants to help "draw both organizations toward finding solutions to America's most pressing problems." Gingrich wants local level leaders of the Tea Party to approach the local chapters of the NAACP with an open invitation to co-host town hall meetings on the subject of "America's future." Why not? Such an idea could be to the betterment of all. For an organization that has had hard times, such combined agenda, activities and events can help generate membership for each at the grassroots level and it could be the beginning real and meaningful dialogues on taxes, job creation, education and other issues that are important in the real life space that both communities occupy.
The NAACP's ire with the Tea Partyers may stem from the rally Glenn Beck's Tea Party plans on the same day and same site Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech nearly 50 years ago. After being bum rushed by Beck with his "Restoring Honor" event Aug. 28th at the Lincoln Memorial, the NAACP and civil rights groups have to hold their events at the unfinished MLK monument.
William Reed is available for speaking engagements via BaileyGroup.org)