Following a firestorm of controversy surrounding the NAACP’s 101st Annual Convention resolution condemning racist elements within the conservative Tea Party movement, the debate draws first political blood. Fending off charges of racism, the National Tea Party Federation – the umbrella organization linking all Tea Party groups and fronts – quickly moved to expel conservative activist Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express which he chairs. Williams recently penned what he described as a satirical “Letter to Lincoln,” fictitious open correspondence from “Colored People” writing to the 16th President of the United States. Miami Herald political commentator Joy-Ann “Joy” Reid is kind enough to provide a copy of the letter in question:
We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!
Williams point is that it’s satire – since the NAACP uses “Colored,” why can’t he? But, since the election of President Obama, there is a growing and volatile trend among White conservatives to discuss race in very familiar and inflammatory prose. Using racialized language, it’s a clever attempt at bigoted code to not only discredit and caricaturize the President, but to malign the Black community and its political leadership.
Spot blown and eager to distance itself from Williams – and using clever response imagery to promote a diverse “Big Tent” movement – the Federation pushes African American spokesman David Webb during a recent CBS “Face the Nation” segment. Reports CNN Wire Staff:
Webb appeared on the CBS program Sunday morning to announce that Williams and the Tea Party Express — which has held a series of events across the country to generate support for the movement — no longer were part of the National Tea Party Federation.
“We, in the last 24 hours, have expelled Tea Party Express and Mark Williams from the National Tea Party Federation because of the letter that he wrote,” Webb said of Williams’ blog post that satirized a fictional letter from what he called “Colored People” to President Abraham Lincoln.
NAACP President Ben Jealous met Williams’ statement by telling CNN, “Good riddance, Mark Williams.” But he praised Tea Party activists like Webb, who is African-American, for standing up and “self-policing” their movement.
“As the movement grows up, you have to act responsibly and they have to keep doing what they just did to Mark Williams and make it clear there is no space for bigots here, period,” Jealous said.
Incidentally, Tea Party groups never really liked the Tea Party Express. The curbside beat down is no sudden thing; Williams’ gaffe provided an opening. Priding itself on its grassroots “common man” appeal, the Tea Party was largely suspicious of the Express, a highly successful fundraising outfit founded by Republican party establishment hacks and lobbyist bundlers (for more context, read Kenneth Vogel’s “GOP operatives crash the tea party” in Politico)
In a related side-show, the Think Progress blog reports longtime Black Republican megaphone Bishop E.W. Jackson, founder of the fringe STAND (Staying True to America’s National Destiny), refuses to condemn Williams during a recent – and very typical – anti-NAACP diatribe on MSNBC.
For all the political and racial posturing in the Federation’s expulsion move, Webb’s appearance on Face the Nation adds an intriguing twist to the ongoing Tea Party conversation. Apparently, despite the obscene lack of diversity at Tea Party rallies, there are active Black people within the movement. Watch for recent signs of conversations between mainstream (and mostly Democratic) Black political leadership and Tea Party-endorsing Black Republicans predictably fizzle out. The show goes on.