Saturday, July 17, 2010

The NAACP statement on the Tea Party

There has been a lot of back and forth on the NAACP statment that I simply haven't engaged in. Some interesting exchanges have gone on on the blogs of The Atlantic that I thought were worth highlighting, specifically some from Ta-Nehisi Coates, here and here. Coates also has a post here titled "Why Black Writers Tend Not to Shout", about how he and other black writers are usually very circumspect because their audiences are often largely white. So they equivocate and try not sound particularly pushy about issues like this. Coates notes that the NAACP's forthrightness on this point was a relief for black writers who typically try to avoid these confrontations. Factually, Coates sounds right on target on this. But I have to say I found it supremely ironic that of all people, Coates wrote this one. He can be very in-your-face in his own comment section, and very dismissive of commenters. I know from personal experience. I've only commented a handful of times before and he's gone into weird attack mode almost every single time, and not just towards me. Usually I comment on posts of his on the Civil War (he's a Civil War history buff). Those posts are his way or the highway - let me put it that way.

I know I can be blunt and I feel perfectly free to disagree strenuously with commenters on this blog too. But then again, I never claimed to be meek and mild, did I? :)

I like Coates's final post on this issue a lot. It is here. I left this in the comment section, which pretty much sums up my views on the NAACP statement on the Tea Party:

"I agree whole-heartedly.

There is a lot to criticize in critiques of the Tea Party movement that frame all Tea Partiers as racist, or that downplay the fact that it fundamentally is a small-government movement (however hypocritical, however poorly executed). The worst commentary on the Tea Party movement has been the commentary that blindly dismisses all of them as racists, and dismisses even the idea that they may be expressing genuine differences of opinion. That has been the worst sort of response.

But the NAACP has provided the best sort of response - the sort of response people should have been making all along, namely that

(1.) Elements of the Tea Party have incontrovertibly racist positions and motivations. This phraseology that they used - discussing "elements" was precisely the right note to strike.

(2.) That these elements should be denounced, not just because the NAACP doesn't like the Tea Party movement, but because if the Tea Party movement itself wants to have any relevance it can't continue to coexist with these elements.

If people confuse these points or fail to understand them, that's on their heads. I thought the NAACP statement was perfectly understandable and right on target.

Now, was it a tactical error? I suppose that depends on how you define it. If you think that ensuring we all communicate our views to each other in a marketplace of ideas is dependent on descending to the least common denominator of public discourse, that it is dependent on getting rid of all nuance and contingency and specificity, then yes, I suppose you might describe the NAACP statement as a "tactical error", because clearly there were willfully ignorant readers that missed the point.

But honestly, I don't want to participate in a public discourse like that, I don't think the NAACP wanted to either, and I applaud them for transcending it."


  1. When the "Tea Party" gets some actual power, I'll be concerned with them (I have the same opinion of Code Pink!, etc.). In the mean time, in the interest of ending racism, mayhaps we should end the drug war, etc.

    Anyway, here is one of the better comments I've seen on this issue:

  2. They made a huge impact on several races so far, they've been making serious inroads into the Republican agenda on Capitol Hill. If Palin runs for president, they're going to be front and center. And in the end, they're voters with seriously considered opinions. It's not a matter of being "concerned with them" - it's a matter of recognizing what they already are. The concern isn't about the Tea Party in general (for me at least). The concern is more for seedy underbelly that they seem more interested in denying than ridding themselves of.

    To say I'm not concerned about them isn't to say that I'm not concerned about what would happen if their policies were implemented, obviously.

  3. "They made a huge impact on several races so far..."

    Less than half a dozen at most.

    "...they've been making serious inroads into the Republican agenda on Capitol Hill."

    That is debatable.

    "It's not a matter of being "concerned with them" - it's a matter of recognizing what they already are."

    No, for me it is an issue of recognizing that the real problem isn't a bunch of poorly organized populists.

    "The concern is more for seedy underbelly that they seem more interested in denying than ridding themselves of."

    What you and I consider the real seedy underbelly of things probably differs significantly. Indeed, most of what is seedy is front and center and considered quite virtuous by the political establishment.


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