It seems the hysterical activism of the Tea Party movement has found a less fiery but equally agitating counterweight in the NAACP.
At the Civil Rights organization’s 101st convention in Kansas City, Mo., the group passed a resolution denouncing racism in the Tea Party.
That move kicked off a volley of accusations between the NAACP and prominent voices in the Tea Party.
“We felt the time had come to stand up and say, ‘It’s time for the tea party to be responsible members of this democracy and make sure they don’t tolerate bigots or bigotry among their members,’” NAACP President Ben Jealous said. “We don’t have a problem with the tea party’s existence. We have an issue with their acceptance and welcoming of white supremacists into their organizations.”
Tea Party members fired back as well.
“I am saddened by the NAACP’s claim that patriotic Americans who stand up for the United States of America’s Constitutional rights are somehow “racists,” said Sarah Palin, one of the most prominent national leaders associated with the broad-based, loosely organized conservative movement. “The charge that Tea Party Americans judge people by the color of their skin is false, appalling, and is a regressive and diversionary tactic to change the subject at hand.”
Kansas City Tea party activist Alex Poulter chimed in, saying the NAACP’s characterization of the conservative movement is not true.
“The movement is made up of a “diverse group of folks who are upset with what is going on with this country. It’s unfounded, but people are running with these accusations like they are true,” he stated.
Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau explained the motivation of the resolution. “It calls on the tea party and all people of good will to repudiate the racist element and activities within the tea party,” he pointed out.
In a related story, a billboard created and posted by a Tea Party group in Iowa compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin. Critics — including some Tea Party members — blasted the billboard as offensive. According to the AP, the sign shows large photographs of Obama, Nazi leader Hitler and communist leader Lenin beneath the labels “Democratic Socialism,” ”National Socialism,” and “Marxist Socialism.”
Yesterday, the group decided to pull the Iowa ad but memories of Tea Party rallies where members carried racist signs (some overt, others subtle) or shouted racial epithets remain. Leaders insist those displays are not representative of the broader mission and movement of the Tea Party.
Last night, after a day of spirited back-and-forth, the NAACP sent out an e-mail titled “Acts of Racism” to supporters and members. It was signed by the group’s president.
The e-mail began, “We are not backing down. Yesterday, the NAACP passed a resolution condemning the racist acts of Tea Party protesters. The backlash from the Tea Party has been furious. But we are not an organization that shies away from controversy. The NAACP was founded on hope, not hate — and we will not stand idly by as racists work to divide our nation.”
In the e-mail, was a link to a pledge to “unify America and stop the racism.”
Read the full text of the e-mail below:
We are not backing down.
Yesterday, the NAACP passed a resolution condemning the racist acts of Tea Party protesters. The backlash from the Tea Party has been furious.
But we are not an organization that shies away from controversy. The NAACP was founded on hope, not hate — and we will not stand idly by as racists work to divide our nation.
Add your name to our pledge to unify America and stop the racism:
The NAACP does not have a problem with the Tea Party, nor its existence. We have a problem with their acceptance and their welcoming of prejudice into their organization.
And in case there is any misunderstanding about what defines racism, let me be clear.
In March, racial slurs were hurled at members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they passed by a Tea Party health care protest in Washington, DC. Missouri Representative Emanuel Cleaver was spat on. People at the rally held signs covered in bigotry.
That is racism. That is racism filled with hate, ignorance and acts of violence. And we will not stand for it.
We are calling on all Americans to stand for the values that have made our country the land of the free and the home of the brave. Sign the pledge now:
The past year has been one of major triumphs and major setbacks in the fight for racial equality. But we will not let bigotry silence us.
We are one people. We are one nation. And we are all NAACP Americans.
Thank you for your support,
President and CEO