It could have been an honor to attend. It would have been something to tell my grandchildren about one day. I could have said that I participated in a historic event — Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally that will be a notable point in the story of the Tea Party movement in America.
Instead, I felt that I had a greater obligation to history — the Aug. 28, 1963, "I Have a Dream" rally in Washington, D.C. — than I had to being present in Washington, D.C., this Aug. 28.
For me, it was clear why I — and perhaps many other black conservatives — had to say no. I understand that there are some who will participate in the rally on Saturday. For example, anti-abortion Dr. Alveda King (niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) will be one of the featured speakers.
The Frederick Douglass Foundation will attend the rally as "esteemed" guests, sitting on the speakers' stage, primarily in support of King. I get this. It is important that pro-life advocates grab advantageous platforms to address and eradicate the black genocide via abortion in our communities — and since the political left is not willing to provide an opportunity to address these grievances, opportunities such as Saturday's will have to do.
Yet for me, after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's defense of Dr. Laura during the "n-word" controversy and Glenn Beck's feigned gratitude to "divine providence" for picking the Aug. 28 date, it just seems historically improper for most black conservatives to acquiesce to the spirit of this event, particularly as some of the principal personalities involved have long sidestepped the crisis in black America today — the very issues that King spoke to back in Aug. 1963.
Glenn Beck is a media star who often quotes historians and politicians of the past, points to historical facts and figures, and implores his viewers to know more about the best of America's foundation and history-making events. He invites his audience to use this knowledge as inspiration to change America from the dangerous path that it is on. I concur with that general message, but I find it both paradoxical and duplicitous for a self-taught historian — whose notable CPAC speech just months ago was full of great facts, quotes and figures from America's past — to be so ignorant of the significance of Aug. 28, much less any speech on that date from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
If Beck's presence on this anniversary contravenes the leadership of King in many ways, the appearance by Palin mocks it. Any notion of "don't retreat, reload" coming from the former vice-presidential candidate — a phrase she proudly uttered in March soon after shots were fired into the office of Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., during the tension over the health care vote — is a callous disregard of how King and many of his peers during the civil rights era left this earth: at the hands of racists intent on "reloading" in order to "reclaim America."
When Sen. John McCain was calming down the incendiary anti-Obama hatred during the 2008 presidential campaign, Palin stoked the fires, refusing to address inappropriate catcalls of "boy" and other racial vitriol. Throughout his struggles and his triumph as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he exhibited leadership and grace to unify and advance America. Palin's actions have been choppy and biting, inconsistent and often polarizing — a trend since she burst onto the national scene in 2008. Her actions do not signify leadership, and thus, I cannot and will not co-sign her irresponsibility with my presence onstage on Saturday.
Smaller government — a basic tenet of the Tea Party movement that I concur with — will never return to America without a bigger role for people, a role that is capable of touching blacks in Chicago at the same depth as whites in Kansas. Not enough of the Tea Party movement — and many would say none of the Tea Party movement at all — embraces unity outside of the friendly confines of its immediate supporters. Too many of its representatives, including most of the speakers on the stage, are incapable of winning the political middle, saving the destitute and making inclusive change. All of those things mattered to King.
What we need in America is unifying leadership. President Obama promised it as a post-partisan candidate and has not yet delivered as a very partisan president. The Republicans have not shown an ability to spark that connectivity across communities even as they garner momentum for November. People such as Palin, Dr. Laura, Rush Limbaugh and Beck have rallied conservatives effectively, but not Americans collectively.
I support conservatives, and I believe in the core Tea Party message. I support the good people of the movement across the nation. Yet I also know that there is an honor that must be restored through an acknowledgment of the problems that divide us, as well as the courage to heal through the differences that estrange us, especially during turbulent economic and social times. So that's why I said no.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the author of an upcoming new edition of the book Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative): The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010). He will be featured on CNN Saturday Morning to provide commentary on the Washington, D.C., rallies on Aug. 28. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.