Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III | O.K., So Tea Party Members Aren’t “Racist” – They’re Just Prejudiced and Bigoted

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III | O.K., So Tea Party Members Aren

On Tuesday, NAACP delegates passed a resolution to condemn extremist elements within the Tea Party, calling on the party’s leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches. Good for the NAACP.

Now, Tea Party members are calling on the NAACP to denounce its racist members and supporters. Racism has no color and it’s a two-way street for anyone wanting to go down that road, said Mike Graham, founder of United Native America and a Tea Party member.

I guess the best defense for the Tea Party is a good offense, but counterclaiming that the NAACP is racist is beyond ridiculous. Maybe the problem is only that the NAACP has used the wrong adjective. If Tea Party members don’t like being called racist, fine. How about bigoted and prejudiced? “Too many members of the Tea Party are bigoted, prejudiced people” – if that tweak in vocabulary helps them sleep better at night, fine.

T-shirts bearing a look alike of cartoon chimp Curious George peeling a banana with “Obama in ’08? lettered underneath is not racist? Fine: it’s ignorant, bigoted and prejudiced. For too many years, comparisons of Africans and African-Americans to primates of all shapes and sizes have aimed to dehumanize people of color to the level of animals.

Tea Party members spitting upon Congressmen Lewis and Cleaver and calling them niggers is not hate filled and racist? Then how about vile, bigoted and prejudiced?

Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo opened the Tea Party convention in February by calling for a reinstatement of Jim-Crow-type literacy tests for voters, saying, “This is our country … Let’s take it back.” Take it back from whom? At the Tea Party’s “Code Red” rally against health care reform in Washington, protesters carried signs that read: “Warning: If Brown can’t stop it, a Browning can,” referring to newly elected Sen. Scott Brown’s (R-Massachusetts) potentially ineffectual health care vote and to a less democratic alternative – a Browning firearm. Sarah Palin posted a map on her Facebook page that used gunsights to indicate Congressional seats that her PAC was “targeting” for the midterm elections and calls for supporters to “Reload!” during her speeches.

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Republican leaders – RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) – are failing to hold their spokespeople accountable for the hatred they espouse. Instead, they seek to improve their political position by riding the wave of anger caused by fear and prejudice. They have been conspicuously silent for too long. Through their silence, they are betraying America. They refuse to repudiate and disassociate themselves from the dangerous and incendiary comments of surrogates such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage. They are allowing threats of violence to become an accepted form of political persuasion. As Dr. King once said, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Racism has nothing at all to do with the reactionary politics of many members of the Tea Party? Fine: it’s prejudiced and bigoted.