The NAACP has passed a resolution that condemns what it feels is rampant racism in the Tea Party movement. Members passed the measure on Tuesday at the organization’s 101st annual convention in Kansas City, Missouri.
Tea Party activists have swiftly denounced the action as unfounded and unfair.
Republican National Committee Chair, Michael Steele said in a written statement
“Recent statements claiming the Tea Party movement is racist are not only destructive, they are not true. Tea Party activists are your mom or dad, your local grocer, banker, hairdresser or doctor. They are a diverse group of passionate Americans who want to ensure that our nation returns to founding principles that honor the Constitution, limit government’s role in our lives, and support policies that empower free markets and free enterprise. Enough with the name-calling.”
The NAACP resolution pits the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, with its storied history of wins on behalf of racial justice, against a grassroots conservative movement that has won some recent political races and is flexing its muscle in Republican circles.
“We take no issue with the Tea Party. We believe in freedom of assembly and people raising their voices in a democracy,” Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a statement.
“We take issue with the Tea Party’s continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements. The time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no space for racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in their movement,” Jealous said.
The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton sought Wednesday to steer attention away from an NAACP resolution condemning racism within the tea party movement, saying focus should remain on jobs and an upcoming march in Washington.
Jackson deflected questions about the resolution at a news conference during the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Kansas City.
“We will not be diverted or otherwise distracted by any other message except putting America back to work,” Jackson said a day after convention delegates approved the resolution. “We want jobs and justice and peace.”
Sharpton was a little more direct, saying issues surrounding the tea party go beyond claims of racism. He said the civil rights movement sought to pressure the federal government to step in when states were enforcing segregation laws, and the tea party’s focus on states’ rights puts people at risk.
“They talk about restoring dignity. They are really talking about restoring a time before the federal government intervened and protected the rights of people,” Sharpton said.