By William Fisher
Acknowledging “ the majority of Tea Party supporters are sincere, principled people of good will,” the head of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) and other civil rights leaders are calling on the populist political movement to purge itself of known racists lest they influence the direction of the movement.
In a conference call with journalists, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin T. Jealous applauded some Tea Party factions for taking the first steps to ensure that racists and bigots do not corrupt the movement’s credibility.
He said, “These are welcome first steps. They promote diversity and acknowledge the inherent perception problem that plagues the Tea Party: that while many of its leaders are motivated by common
conservative budget and governance concerns, for too long they have tolerated others who espouse racism and xenophobia and, in some instances, are formally associated with organizations like the
Council of Conservative Citizens -- the direct lineal descendant of the White Citizens Council.”
However, he said, this work is incomplete.
“These groups and individuals are out there, and we ignore them at our own peril. They are speaking at Tea Party events, recruiting at rallies and in some cases remain in the Tea Party leadership itself,” he said, adding:
“The danger is not that the majority of Tea Party members share their views, but that left unchecked, these extremists might indirectly influence the direction of the Tea Party and therefore the direction of our country: moving it backward and not forward.”
In a telephone news conference Wednesday, the NAACP endorsed a report by the Kansas-City-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, an independent civil rights advocacy organization. The report, “Tea Party Nationalism,” details various associations between Tea Party organizations and acknowledged hate groups in the United States.
“The Tea Party movement has unleashed a still inchoate political movement who are, in their numerical majority, angry middle-class white people who believe their country, their nation, has been taken from them,” the report says.
The Tea Party is a loose association of independent groups or chapters without a single leader or spokesperson. In general, it seeks smaller government, lower taxes, solutions to the problem of illegal immigration, and less government involvement in the lives of ordinary Americans. The groups that comprise the Tea Party have not put forward any policy proposals for achieving these goals. They tend to be Republicans and are overwhelmingly white.
While many Tea Partiers joined the movement out of genuine concern for the well-being of the country, there is a substantial body of evidence suggesting that professional lobbying firms, mostly in Washington, D.C., have provided many of the Tea Party’s organizing and publicity skills, and that wealthy individuals and corporations have made substantial money contributions to the movement.
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said in the conference call that, in backing the report: "We're not attacking the tea party. We're not calling the tea party racist. We are asking them to repudiate the racists in their midst. We have challenged Democratic Party in the same way. We challenged Republicans when they embraced the old Dixiecrats."
But not everyone agrees. One who doesn’t is Bruce Fein, a well-known conservative lawyer who served as an associate deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice under President Ronald Reagan. He told IPS, "The British had their Papal Plots, Joe McCarthy had his Communists, and now the NAACP has its ostensible racists as scapegoats to distract attention from serious issues.”
He added, “The glorious civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was chronically maligned by ad hominem attacks on its leadership and their associations based on flimsy or concocted evidence. It is disturbing to see the NAACP parrot the demagoguery that was employed against it."
But the report includes an addendum with details of local Tea Party leaders who the report’s authors say have “direct ties to white supremacist groups.”
The report says: “The TeaParty.org faction is led by the executive director of the Minuteman Project, a nativist organization that has in the past been associated with the murder of migrant Mexican workers as part of its vigilante ‘border operations.’ Roan Garcia-Quintana, ‘advisor and media spokesman’ for the 2010 Tax Day Tea Party and member of ResistNet, also serves on the National Board of Directors of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), the lineal descendent of the Council of White Citizens. In Texas, Wood County Tea Party leader Karen Pack was once listed as an ‘official supporter’ of Thom Robb’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a modern-day white supremacist organization.”
The report examines the six national organizational networks the authors conclude are at the core of the Tea Party movement: FreedomWorks Tea Party, 1776 Tea Party, Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Patriots, ResistNet, and Tea Party Express.
It says that leaders of all but one -- FreedomWorks, a lobbying group in Washington headed by Dick Armey, a former Republican House majority leader -- have raised questions about President Obama’s birth certificate or have ties to white supremacist groups.
The national attention sparked by the NAACP call this summer for the Tea Party to repudiate racist elements within the group inspired the Tea Party leadership to purge some outspoken racist elements, including Tea Party Express chairman Mark Williams.
The report concludes that members of groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) – once known as the segregationist White Citizens Councils -- have infiltrated tea party chapters. The CCC is opposed to actions designed to "mix the races of mankind." It also notes that contributors to Stormfront.org,” a white nationalist Web site, have written of "infiltrating" Tea Party events.
For the report go to www.teapartynationalism.com