John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


NAACP Vs. The Tea Party

Posted on July 15, 2010

This reminds me of one of those old Japanese monster movies -- – a death match brought to you by cable television.

The NAACP pass a resolution condemning racist elements of the Tea Party.  Various spokesmen from various factions of the Tea Party (there is no one single Tea Party) gamely call the NAACP racist for calling them racist.  Depending on which cable channel you are watching, you either have pictures of white people holding up offensive pictures of Barack Obama or pictures of black people saying really nasty things about white people flashing up on the background.

I understand why the NAACP would pass such a resolution.  Let’s face it, this is a great way for the NAACP to get some press, which has been a pretty hard thing for them to do in the Obama era.

And I can see why the Tea Party folks would react the way they did.  They not only get to say that they aren’t racist.   They get to say it on cable television.  How fun is that?

This is what passes for a civil racial dialogue in our country today.

Thank you, cable news networks.  That is very helpful.

When Barack Obama was elected President, the term “post-racial” was bandied about as if it meant something.

We live in a post-racial society just like we live in a post-partisan world, which means, of course, that we don’t live in either, nor are we ever going to.

Mr. Obama challenges our pre-conceptions of what a leader in our society should or can be on so many levels that we shouldn’t in any way be surprised that some people can’t quite handle it.  Yes, he is of African-American descent, but that is the least of challenges he presents.  He has real and deep connections to a man – Reverend Wright – who routinely and aggressively condemns “white America,” portraying Caucasians as incarnations of the devil himself.  He has real and deep connections to a man – Bill Ayers – who was part of a campaign to bomb our own Pentagon.  His father was a Muslim and his middle name is Hussein.  He is an ideological liberal who has expressed contempt for American-style free market capitalism on several occasions, and whose first steps as President were to lead the government takeover of America’s largest auto company.

The fact that this guy got elected to the White House is astounding, if you take even a casual glance at our national history.

That Mr. Obama sometimes elicits a strong and sometimes vociferous reaction is in no way surprising.

That being said, there is no excuse for some of the race-baiting and racism geared towards Obama from some members of the media and some marchers of the Tea Party movement.

I don’t mind the signs that say that Obama is a socialist.  That is fair game.  Obama may very well be a socialist.  Putting him in white face and making him out to be a clown?  Well, that is racist.  Dressing him up as an African witch doctor?  Needlessly offensive, and yes, racist.  Trying to delegitimize his election by calling into question his birth place?  Silly, stupid and in many ways, outrageous.

There are so many other stories to cover in the ever-evolving story of racial progress in America.

One under-covered story is the fact that despite getting hit the hardest in Obama’s economy, blacks still overwhelmingly approve of the President’s efforts to govern thus far.  Why is that?

Gentrification of the cities and its impact on racial understanding is another story not covered.  What does it mean when young white families move into traditionally black communities in Harlem or Southeast DC or the West Side of Chicago?  Do they demand and get better government services and as a result lift the expectations of the entire community or do they simply raise property values, which means higher taxes and higher rents for their neighbors?  Does this lead to greater racial understanding or greater racial conflict?

How about the school debate?  In DC, the most important figure in the Mayoral election is Michelle Rhee, who is not even running for Mayor.  Adrian Fenty is a Rhee supporter, while Vincent Orange will fire her if he gets the chance.  Do black voters see Rhee as a savior who has a plan to fix the schools or as an insensitive racist who targets black teachers for elimination?

Or how about impact of affirmative action in our nation’s most elite schools?  That is an interesting story.  Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers about how black graduates from the elite universities do just as well as the white graduates, even if their test scores to get into school aren’t as strong.  Gladwell’s point in the book is that if you attain a certain intellectual ability, you don’t have to have the highest IQ in order to do well.  You just have to be able to compete.

President Obama is just the first of many of the these talented African American graduates who might not have had the highest test scores to get into school, but who are proving that given the access to the connections of the top universities, they can do very well in multi-racial America.

Why are so many African American conservatives now running for political office as Republicans?  Didn’t Obama’s election seal the deal for the Democrats for at least a generation?  That is a good story too.

We still have the familiar stories, of course.  Kids are still killing kids at an alarming rate in many predominately African American communities, although, crime has gone down in the black America with Obama as President. Most people in our prisons are black.  And discrimination still exists around America, in swimming pools, in country clubs, in all places great and small.

But the racial story in America is not a simple black and white.  It is not a simple Democrat vs. Republican.  It is not a simple conservative vs. liberal.

It’s more nuanced than that, as long you aren’t watching the cable shows.

America is moving forward, slowly but surely, towards a more complex, more equitable, and more individualistic society.  The old racial barriers are falling down.  That is a good thing.

Subscribe to the Feehery Theory Newsletter, exclusively on Substack.
Learn More