By Krissah Thompson
Washington Post | July 12, 2010
Members of the NAACP will vote Tuesday on a resolution that condemns what the group calls "explicitly racist behavior" by supporters of the "tea party." The resolution, which is expected to pass, pits the civil rights group against the conservative grass-roots movement, which has repeatedly denied allegations of racism.
The controversial statement is one of many actions the NAACP has taken this week during its annual convention, which kicked off Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. The group has also requested a meeting with oil company BP to discuss the effect that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is having on minority workers. Meanwhile, one of the NAACP's local chapters has persuaded Alvin Greene, South Carolina's surprise Democratic Senate nominee, to speak at a meeting Sunday.
The tea party resolution, which was submitted by the NAACP's Kansas City branch and was first reported by the Kansas City Star, has sparked a hot debate. It says members of the movement have "displayed signs and posters intended to degrade people of color generally and President Barack Obama specifically" and calls "the racist elements" within the tea party "a threat to progress."
As an example, authors of the statement point to reports by black members of Congress that they endured spitting and racial epithets before voting for the health-care overhaul. (No charges were filed, and some tea party supporters have denied the claims.)
The resolution also calls on "the leadership and members of the tea party to recognize the historic and present racist factions within it and to repudiate those factions," and says the movement has opposed government programs that help working people and people of color, according to NAACP spokeswoman Leila McDowell.
Many members of the loose affiliation of groups that make up the tea party have roundly condemned the resolution.
"Some of these charges have been going on for a while," said Brendan Steinhauser, director of campaigns for FreedomWorks, which organizes tea party groups. "I think there's been a concerted effort to make us look like were are extreme. . . . We're a very mainstream movement that talks about the debt, the bailouts, the spending."
Steinhauser said he is "inspired by the American civil rights movement" and considered the 1963 March on Washington a model for the tea party's anti-tax march on the Mall last fall.
Gina Loudon, one of the founders of the St. Louis Tea Party, told Fox News that the NAACP's charges are untrue and called the resolution a "shame."
"I can't believe that the tea party is even going to be put in a position of dignifying something like that," she said. "This is sad, because this established organization is being used by the left."
She said the tea party groups have tried to give minority conservatives a platform.