Black Tea Partiers Speak
See why the angry, largely white grassroots movement appeals to them (and why Uncle Tom was a hero).
Charles Butler, a black, Chicago-based conservative talk show host, has been in shouting matches and called a traitor to his race because of his affiliation with the largely white Tea Party movement.
Lloyd Marcus, a black, Orlando, Fla.-based, conservative folk singer who wears a black panama hat, leather vest, white shirt and black pants, has been described as a minstrel, a buck dancer and a boot licker because he performs at Tea Party events, he said.
No matter. Butler and Marcus said they are used to getting flak over their membership to the nascent grassroots Tea Party movement. Members of the movement are raising vociferous opposition to issues that they believe are stunting the growth of America: Rising unemployment, expanding taxes, uncontrolled government spending and a mushrooming federal government.
Butler and Marcus are not completely alone in their march to the Tea Party movement. Scores of blacks and other people of color have joined it, though just how many is unknown. But it's clear they are in the minority. The latest New York Times/CBS News Poll shows that the 18 percent of Americans who are members of the fledgling movement tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.
Why Uncle Tom Was a Hero
Butler said he is a member because his hometown leader, President Barack Obama, is offering the wrong solutions to the nation's problems. He is very vocal about it on "The Other Side with Charles Butler,'' which airs weekday evenings on Chicago's WVON, 1690-AM and has been on the air since 2007. Within the next several weeks, Butler plans to host a Tea Party on Chicago's South Side, Obama's old stomping grounds.
Charles Butler (Photo by Lynette Holloway)
Noticing that the Tea Party movement has flourished under Obama, some on the left have accused blacks like Butler and Marcus of being pawns in an odious, racist attempt to block the president's success. Indeed, racial animosity reared its ugly head when some people hurled racial epithets at black elected officials during a protest of health care reform.
Butler is unfazed. "I'm involved in the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party because I feel that people should be able to express themselves and their values without a filter of some other group," he said, holding court during an interview with The Root as if he were on air. "People call you a traitor. They call you all kinds of disparaging names. I couldn't care less about being called an Uncle Tom, because again, that leads to the miseducation of the Negro. Anyone who has read the book by Harriet Beecher Stowe would know that Uncle Tom was a hero. We have a lot of those fallacies going on in the community, like the Democratic Party has helped black folk. That is patently untrue."