WASHINGTON – More than a dozen black conservatives gathered Wednesday under the banner of a popular tea party organization with one goal – to refute accusations of racism within the grassroots movement.
“This is not a movement driven by race” said Selena Owens,an author and political activist associated with the Tea Party Express,the group that put on the press conference. “The injection of race into the nation's dialogue has come from those wishing to destroy the tea party movement.”
The press conference was organized in part as a response to a July 13 resolution passed by members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People condemning racist elements in the tea part movement and urging the movement to repudiate racism.
Owens introduced 15 other speakers,including a talk radio host,the heads of conservative political action committees and a congressional candidate from Maryland. In all,the group spoke for about an hour and a half,with each speech offering promises that the tea party movement was not racist,hopes that American politics would move beyond race,attacks on the NAACP and jabs toward the reporters who filled the room.
One such jab came after a question from CNN reporter Shannon Travis,who cited a Washington Post-ABC News poll in which 7 percent of tea party supporters said racial prejudice against President Barack Obama motivated the movement. Upon hearing that the poll numbers came from ABC,the crowd of speakers gathered at the front of the room erupted into laughter and moved on without answering the question.
Some of the presenters continued to poke fun at the media,blaming them for asking “the wrong questions” and laughing when reporters didn't raise their hands when the speakers turned the tables and asked them questions.
Although the initial goal of the press conference was to refute allegations of racism,many of the speakers turned their attention to attacking Democrats.
Kevin Jackson,the president of the Black Conservative Coalition,attacked Obama for a remark he made when he appeared on “The View” Thursday,and used the word “mongrels” to describe black Americans.
“Democrats have re-enslaved America,” Jackson said. “That's why I call 2010 ‘Emancipation II.' This time even the white folks get freed.”
On the program,host Barbara Walters asked Obama why he doesn't identify himself as biracial,even though his mother was white and his father was black. Obama said that,when he was growing up and people viewed him as black,that was something he could accept. But he added,”We are sort of a mongrel people … that's actually true for white America as well.”
He said he was less interested in labels than in “how we treat each other.”