There are about 100,000 excellent causes the NAACP could take up right now— countless crusades that would elevate people of color, strengthen human rights and weaken discrimination. Launching a broadside against the Tea Party isn’t one of them.
I am disappointed that Ben Jealous insisted on forging ahead with a campaign against the Tea Party. It will backfire badly. The WaPo’s Dana Milbank outlines some of the more inflammatory rhetoric that NAACP officials used in a conference call yesterday:
The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter, used his time on the conference call to liken the Tea Partyers to southern racists during Reconstruction and church bombers and assassins during the civil rights era.
“We have to have particular concern about supremacy attitudes, violence, hate language, particularly when it’s rooted in notions of restoring or taking back or redeeming the country,” Barber said. “Because, in the American social-historical-political psyche, we have historical markers that tell us how dangerous this is to be given legitimacy.”
“We know in 1867 when the Ku Klux Klan, for instance, laid out its political purposes, it was about restoring and re-enfranchising, if you will.”
“And then when you go to the Reconstruction Era, you find this same attempt to spew this division, this hate language out…. ‘We need to restore America. We need to take it back.’”
Barber moved on to 1963. “When George Wallace used this language and themes of division, very vitriolic hate language,” Barber said, “Medgar Evers was killed in June of that year… We had the bombing of a church, four girls were killed at Sunday school and then we had a president assassinated.”
Oh, for heaven’s sake. I remember the church bombings of 1963. I remember George Wallace. And I tell you that these times are nothing like those. Barber is guilty of doing the very things that so many tea party activists do — making such exaggerated claims that they hold absolutely no credibility. Obama is a Nazi? That’s crazy. Tea partiers are like Birmingham church bombers? That’s crazy, too.
Here is my prediction: Tea party supporters will use the NAACP’s report to claim that the organization painted all tea partiers — and all Obama critics — as racists. And the tea party will win the cage match.