NAACP Vs. The Tea Party
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Summer is the time of the year when many groups hold their annual meetings. The NAACP, the venerable civil rights group is doing that and so are some of the national Tea Party groups. That's the movement of political activists that's been organizing around the country in response to what they consider an excessive expansion of government power.
Now those two groups are taking aim at each other. The NAACP passed a resolution condemning what it called racist elements in the Tea Party Movement. And members of the Tea Party are, as you might imagine, not pleased.
Later on the program, we're also going to talk about how drug traffickers are using traditional Native American tribal lands to move drugs into the U.S. It's part of our Dealing With Drugs series that concludes tomorrow when we talk to the White House drug czar.
We're also going to check in on the Iroquois Nation's lacrosse team in its efforts to get to international tournament of the sport that the Iroquois invented. There's been a glitch. We'll tell you what it is.
But, first, we talk about the NAACP versus Tea Party smack down. First, here's the NAACP's Ben Jealous on Larry King talking about the roots of his group's complaints about the Tea Party.
Then you'll hear Tea Party Express national spokesman, Mark Williams, on NPR. Here it is.
(Soundbite of show, "Larry King Live")
Mr. BEN JEALOUS (President, NAACP): What prompted this were our folks here in the Show-Me State who knew that the council of conservative citizens, a group that says that black people are not genetically equipped to participate in democracy, has been promoting Tea Party membership and bragging about their influence and activity in the Tea Party, that in the midst of all these horrible signs we've seen.
You know, we've heard all that and we haven't heard Dick Army or the other Tea Party leaders come out and just say, that's wrong, there's no space for bigotry in our ranks.
Mr. MARK WILLIAMS (National Spokesman, Tea Party Express): We are dealing with people who are professional race baiters who make a very good living off of this kind of thing. They make more money off of race than any slave trader ever. It's time groups like the NAACP went to the trash heap of history where they belong with all the other vile, racist groups that emerged in our history.
MARTIN: That last voice again was Mark Williams of the Tea Party Express bus tour of Tea Party rallies. Before that you heard Ben Jealous, who's the head of the NAACP.
We wanted to talk more about this, so we decided to call two people who are self-described conservatives who have spoken at Tea Party events, but who are both people of color. Lenny McAllister speaks with us from North Carolina. He's a member of the Republican Party there and a well-known political commentator. He's the author of the book "Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative)." And as we said, he's spoken at a number of Tea Party events.
Also with us is Juan Baldor, a professor of Spanish language. He's an immigrant to the United States from Cuba, and he's also spoken at Tea Party events in Texas. He joins us from Dallas. I welcome you both.
Professor JUAN BALDOR (Spanish, Dallas Baptist University): Thank you very much for having us on.
Mr. LENNY MCALLISTER (Political Commentator, Author, "Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative"): Hi, Michel.
MARTIN: Now, Lenny, we've actually talked about this before, you've written a lot about this. Now you've both seen these posters at some of these events that a number of people consider racist. So I'd like ask, do you think that there is an element of the Tea Party movement that is opposed to President Obama because of his race, as opposed to because of his policies? Lenny?
Mr. MCALLISTER: In addressing that question, I want to get back to the two statements we heard, both from Ben Jealous as well as from Mark Williams. And let's get to Mark Williams' statement first. In that regard, if you listen to what he said, you can see why people see some racist elements in the Tea Party.
Now, it doesn't mean it's everybody. It's a minority of people. And I'm sitting here listening to Mark Williams' statement and I'm furious. That's the epitome of what a Tea Party patriot should not be saying. They should not be saying that the NAACP is vile. The NAACP is not vile. They fought for civil rights for all types of people for years, even if they're misguided now, to use that type of language is not only inappropriate, but it does a disservice to the proud hundreds of thousands of Tea Party patriots and people that identify with the Tea Party because of his vitriol and aggressive statements that are, in my opinion, unnecessary. So I could see why they would react that way.
MARTIN: So let me just break it down and we'll come back to you. I want to hear from Juan Baldor. You think that there are some racist elements who've been attracted to the Tea Party, but you don't think it's fair to judge the whole movement by what you consider to be a fringe element that's riding the Tea Party's coattails. You think that's fair?
Prof. BALDOR: Most definitely so.
Prof. BALDOR: I, having, you know, come to this country from a socialist, communist regime, I'm very much aware of what it's like to live under that system of oppression. What I see in the Tea Party, is people of all races, people of all walks of life, who have a love for this country, which I share.
MARTIN: Do you think that there are racist elements within the Tea Party?
Prof. BALDOR: That's what I was going to lead to. I have not seen one example of this in any of the meetings that I've attended, in any of the functions where I've been. I have not seen this. Now...
MARTIN: What about those signs with Obama being compared to Hitler and to Lenin? What about that?
Prof. BALDOR: There's always going to be some extreme person that does not represent the entire organization. But that does not mean that that's what the organization's about. It's the opposite of that. It's about a love of country. It's about protecting our constitutional rights. It's about protecting our freedoms and a love of the United States of America.
MARTIN: Well, why then do why is there a need to have these posters of President Obama, you know, comparing him to Hitler and to Lenin and with a bone through his nose and all that other business? What's that about?
Prof. BALDOR: That's what I'm saying, you know, those people do not represent the Tea Party. They're just fringe individuals that have extreme views.
MARTIN: Let me just jump in to say, if you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're talking about that NAACP versus Tea Party conflict. The NAACP has called out the Tea Party saying it should denounce racist elements within the Tea Party. Some spokespeople for the Tea Party take umbrage at that and have responded in strong terms.
So we've called two people of color who have spoken at Tea Party events, who are self-described conservatives, to get their perspective on this. We're speaking with Lenny McAllister and Juan Baldor.
Lenny McAllister, what do you think is an appropriate response to those elements of the Tea Party, however fringe or small or large they may be, that are taking on this kind of racist imagery and overtone? What should people do if they're concerned about that?
Mr. MCALLISTER: Well, the NAACP in my opinion should stay in scope. For example, political satire is in scope. George Bush was depicted as Hitler. George Washington was the first president of the United States and he suffered political satire, and was hung in effigy, as a matter of fact. So you've had that through all 44 presidencies to go after that and say, well, they're comparing President Obama to Stalin or to Hitler is just a waste of time.
Now, the bone through the nose witch doctor comparisons, that's inappropriate and that is based on racism. I mean that is when the NAACP and others should come in, but don't target all political satire as inappropriate.
MARTIN: Well, what about the whole Hitler, Lenin thing? What do you think that do you think that's inbounds or not inbounds?
Mr. MCALLISTER: Well, that's political satire. It was inbounds for people when it came to Bush in the war overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wouldn't have done it. I didn't do it with Bush and I don't do it with President Obama and I wouldn't do it with any of our presidents. But people do that when they start talking about socialism when it comes to the Nazis or when it comes to the USSR. If they want to make that comparison to prove their point, that's why we have freedom of speech here in the United States. Just as there is freedom of speech for the NAACP to speak up and say, hey, the racist stuff that's out there needs to be addressed.
All that to say this, though, when it comes to the NAACP, black people are in an epidemic state here in the United States of America. And, A, we should all be able to combine together both conservatives and liberals, both sides of the aisle, to address racism.
But more importantly, we have to go save generations of young people. We have to get the black on black crime out of the way. We have to further educate our youth. And if we're going to spend more time on Tea Party resolutions, then we will getting in the streets and being willing to live and die for the next generations of African-Americans coming up. Then it is a waste of time and the NAACP is continuing to shrink in its relevancy to black America and 21st century United States.
MARTIN: Juan, what do you think is an appropriate response to whatever the size of this element is within the Tea Party movement that is attracted to this kind of imagery. What do you think people who are concerned about that should do? Should they ignore it, in your view, because it's just not significant enough as part of the movement? Or should they criticize it as the NAACP has done? What do you think is appropriate?
Prof. BALDOR: Any expression of racism is totally evil. It's wrong. However, again, as I said, that does not define the organization. And what I see happening and what I find offensive is that it's a way to discredit the entire movement of people that are - the primary goal of this organization is an expression of love of which to the United States and protection of our constitutional rights.
MARTIN: Well, what about Mark Williams's comments about the NAACP making more money off of race than any slave trader ever. And they should go to the trash heap of history. Juan, do you think those comments are inbounds or out of bounds?
Prof. BALDOR: They're pretty strong words, obviously. And I think the way it's worded it could be taken offensive. But I think that there are individuals who muddy up racism. Instead, we've come a long way in this country. I'm proud of the fact that we can have a black man as the president of the United States in these days. I think Obama is the wrong person. But the fact that we've reached that point in our history, I think it's fantastic.
MARTIN: Okay, so, Obama - so comparing Obama to Hitler and Lenin, inbounds of out of bounds, Juan, in your view?
Prof. BALDOR: Well, you know, again, as political satire, it's just going to happen. There are an awful lot of radical leftist elements in our government today. That's what the reaction is.
MARTIN: Okay, but these people were elected under the rules of the government in which you live, right? So, you're not arguing about their legitimacy to govern.
Prof. BALDOR: Oh, no, no. But I'm arguing the deception. They came in promising transparency in government. We haven't seen that. The 13 trillion debt that we are under and it keeps growing.
MARTIN: Okay, but the significant explosion of the debt started under the previous administration. I think you agree with that.
Mr. MCALLISTER: Michel?
Prof. BALDOR: It happened under the Clinton administration. I mean the...
MARTIN: No, I'm sorry. That's not that is just simply factually incorrect. But anyway...
Mr. MCALLISTER: Can I make a point about the racist aspect that we were talking about?
MARTIN: Sure, of course. Yeah.
Mr. MCALLISTER: This is what frustrates African-Americans with the Tea Party movement, because both Mark and unfortunately Juan have not had the courage to say, when you say that the NAACP has made more money off of racism than any slave trader ever have, do you...
Prof. BALDOR: I didn't say that.
Mr. MCALLISTER: But, hold on - you disrespect how much money, value, power, as well as suffering African-Americans went through in the slave trade. And when Tea Party activists can't say, listen, when you bring that up, that is absolutely out of bounds.
MARTIN: Juan, I think you deserve to have something, deserve to have a response if you care to.
Prof. BALDOR: Definitely. You know, I was defending his comments. I think you didn't hear me say that I did say that. I thought that the comments were inappropriate. However, I did say, yes, of course I think we all know that there are some people that will always muddy up the waters to keep the fires going in order to with racism. And I think that's racist. And I'm personally offended by the charges that have been made toward the entire Tea Party movement. The Tea Party movement is not defined by a few loons that are extremists.
MARTIN: Juan Baldor is a professor of the Spanish language in Dallas, Texas. He is a speaker and a supporter of his local Tea Party movement. He joined us from his office in Dallas.
Lenny McAllister is a political commentator and author. He's also a supporter of the Tea Party movement and he joined us from WDAV in Davidson, North Carolina. Gentlemen, I thank you both for speaking with us.
Prof. BALDOR: Thank you.
Mr. MCALLISTER: Thank you.