now, when someone asks you to repudiate racism, the correct response is... to repudiate racism. it's pretty simple. tea party leaders could've simply issued a response like this:
we absolutely repudiate racism and other forms of bigotry, and if bigots do turn up at our events, know that they do not speak for us and we don't share their views.
easy, right? had the tea party done this, the story would've been gone in a day, plus the tea party would be insulated against any future accusations of racism—we repudiated racism months ago!
but this being the tea party, they instead went berserk. they accused the NAACP of hypocrisy. they claimed that the "real racists" were the NAACP, not them. and in a development that was probably inevitable, some responded to accusations of racism by becoming even more racist!
that's what happened to mark williams, spokesman for the tea party express. williams first responded by saying that the NAACP makes "more money off of race than any slave trader, ever" and belongs "in the trash heap [...] along with all the other vile, racist groups that emerged in our history."
then, apparently unsatisfied, williams penned possibly the most racist blog post ever, in which he mocked the NAACP for having the word "colored" in their name, then went on to adopt the persona of "tom's nephew", using plainly offensive language to repeat all sorts of horrible stereotypes about african-americans.
the post was so beyond-the-pale, over-the-top offensive that williams was soon forced to take it down, but the damage was already done. williams was demoted; his group was expelled from the tea party federation and denounced by other tea party groups.
so in the end, the NAACP resolution was a partial success: it resulted in the tea party denouncing one of its own leaders.
still, many wingnuts continue to ignore the williams debacle, pretending that there are no racists in the tea party movement and that the NAACP is full of hateful hypocrites. melyssa "miss ann" donaghy—who you'll be either pleased or bemused to learn recently resurrected her blog—tried to pretend that all the racists at tea party events are leftist "infiltrators" sent "to pose as racists". she also suggested that the NAACP were hypocrites because they didn't speak up when a black conservative got beat up this one time, stating that "I hope it is ok by the NAACP to be black and conservative in America!"
apparently to melyssa, the NAACP are hypocrites if they don't specifically and individually denounce every incidence of racism ever, even if they've never heard of it. of course, given the opportunity, they would gladly denounce racist violence against kenneth gladley or anyone else, just as benjamin jealous had no problem denouncing the new black panther party on this week's meet the press. (also, note to melyssa: michael steele, RNC chair, is a longtime NAACP member.)
at least melyssa admits that racists have attended tea party events. gary welsh couldn't even bring himself to do that. first he tried to pin the resolution on michelle obama, simply because she was present at the meeting. (she was actually there to discuss childhood obesity.)
he also trotted out an out-of-context video that's been making the rounds of a black USDA official confessing to having stuggled with racism while performing her job, citing it as proof that the NAACP, not tea partiers, are the real racists. (the NAACP quickly condemned the official, but naturally that's not good enough for gary, who's just looking for an excuse call andre carson a liar.)
gary, and people like him, have a shockingly naive view of racism and bigotry. he has no trouble identifying bigotry when directed at People Like Him by People Not Like Him (though he seems to have completely stopped discussing homophobia—supposedly one of his blog's signature issues), yet he seemingly defines white racism as dressing up in a sheet and lynching folks. and since he and his fellow right-wingers aren't out burning crosses (well... most of them aren't), they therefore aren't racists and their actions are thus not racist. this is why gary doesn't understand when others call him out for racist attitudes in his blog. he assumes that he isn't a racist and is thus incapable of racist thought, so when others point out problematic content, he assumes they must be political opponents who are trying to discredit him. he never bothers to analyze what he's written and why it might be offensive—and perhaps he never will.
of course, everyone has racist or bigoted thoughts from time to time. the key to overcoming bigotry is to recognize these thoughts for what they are and act accordingly.
update: unsurprisingly, the USDA official's story becomes a lot less damning when viewed in context.
2nd update: NAACP has issued a new statement:
With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias.
Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.
The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm.
Moreover, this incident and the lesson it prompted occurred more that 20 years before she went to work for USDA.
Finally, she was sharing this account as part of a story of transformation and redemption. In the full video, Ms.Sherrod says she realized that the dislocation of farmers is about "haves and have nots." "It's not just about black people, it's about poor people," says Sherrod in the speech. "We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn't matter." ¶