Letter: ‘There is a very active presence of racists in America’s public political discourse’

Letter to the Editor

The latest in the highly publicized back-and-forth between the NAACP and the Tea Party movement comes in the form of a report said to have specific examples of Tea Party members involved in racist organizations. The following letter by NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous has been circulating the Web.

Just moments ago, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) released a report documenting specific examples of Tea Party leaders and Tea Party-associated organizations providing platforms for anti-Semites, racists, and other bigots.

The report serves as a reminder: There is a very active presence of racists in America’s public political discourse, and there is a very real threat of moving backward if we do not stand up and speak out.

To be clear: Whether we agree with their policy positions or not, we at the NAACP believe the majority of Tea Party supporters are sincere, principled people of basic good will. We have no problem with their expression of political views in our great democracy.

We do, however, have a problem when prominent Tea Party members have direct ties to organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, and are allowed to use Tea Party events to spread their hateful messages. Moreover, we have a problem when Tea Party members call civil rights heroes vicious slurs or repeatedly and publicly deny the President’s place of birth and his status as an American citizen.

Most importantly, we have a problem when regular Tea Party members stand silent as those who share the Tea Party name push a racist agenda. A great man once warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We in the NAACP refuse to tolerate silence.

Last summer, after months of waiting for accountability, we publicly called on Tea Party leaders to repudiate those who would use the Tea Party platform to espouse racism or call for violence against any group in our society.

We are pleased that in response, Tea Party leaders took a few steps in the right direction. They expelled a leader who repeatedly made racist comments. They fired another who suggested gay people should be killed. Still, as this report shows, much remains to be done.

For more than one hundred years, the NAACP has stood sentinel against racism and hate violence in the United States. We know that we have a moral obligation, summarized succinctly in our nation’s pledge of allegiance, to oppose those who would seek to tear the United States apart by espousing hatred or calling for violence against any group in our country.

We are One Nation. That is why we came together on October 2 for a truly diverse March on Washington that spoke to this nation’s greatest values. That is why we will continue to fight for hope, not hate.

I commend the research done by the IREHR. Their report proves why our work is more important than ever. I encourage you to read this comprehensive effort. It delves deeper into the specific evidence that prompted the NAACP’s call on the Tea Party to act responsibly than any prior study.

Today, America stands at a choice point in its historic march towards making our nation’s pledge real. In one direction, there is the possibility of a real debate between people of good will about the options for moving our nation forward. In the other, there is a place filled with vicious hate, threats, and lies that can only take us backward.

Thank you for standing up for civil rights for all. Thank you for calling for the most basic civility in America’s great town square. Thank you for insisting that America moves ever forward, never backward.

Yours in the struggle,

Ben Jealous
President and CEO

Read the report here.