Currently in the midst of its annual national convention in Kansas City, the NAACP today introduced a resolution condemning racism in American Tea Parties. Though exact details are currently sketchy, The Kansas City Star reports that the resolution will ask “all people of good will to repudiate the racism of the Tea Parties, and to stand in opposition to its drive to push our country back to the pre-civil rights era.”
While my interview with Benjamin Jealous confirms that, in fact, the occasionally controversial NAACP is certainly doing important work every single day, I can’t help thinking that the significance of this resolution, not to mention its validity, remains to be seen.
While the intolerant tone of many Tea Party rallies is by now the stuff of legend, it’s not that tone with which the NAACP is taking issue; if it were, I might be in agreement. Instead, what Jealous et al. are ill-advisedly doing is leveling hefty charges of bigotry against the nebulously connected outposts of a crypto-political party. This is problematic for a few major reasons.
The first is that what constitutes a Tea Party is by and large impossible to define. Because there is no Tea Party governing body offering charters or doling out bylaws, exactly who the NAACP has in its sights is largely an unanswerable question. Is a group of 10 shut-ins in Florida a Tea Party just because they have a website? Is anyone who attends a Tea Party rally a Tea Party member? If we’re going to go around calling things racist, shouldn’t we first know exactly what those things are?