Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tea with a side of hate

There's no controlling a movement. The actions of some shouldn't always define the reputation of everyone. But when members of a movement act out then everyone has a decision to make. Do you look the other way, do you apologize, do you celebrate?

Well, I'm waiting to see what the loosely organized groups that make up the tea party are going to do in light of the news that some of their members hurled racist and anti-gay epithets and spit at Black and gay members of Congress.

According to MSNBC's First Read:

African-American Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), a protege of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who helped organize the March on Washington, went to the House floor today to tell Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) that a Tea Party protester called him a "n-----."

Another Democratic source confirms to NBC News that openly gay Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) was called a "f--" by somebody in the Tea Party crowd.

Rep. Emanaul Cleaver (D-MO), another African-American member, was apparently spit on by a Tea Party protester.

Clyburn, who helped lead sit-ins in South Carolina in the '60s had this to say regarding the Tea Partiers:

"It was absolutely shocking to me, last Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus Pomford University where 50 years ago, as of last Monday, March 15th I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit-ins...quite frankly I heard some things today that I haven't heard since that day. I heard people saying things today I've not heard since March 15th, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus. This is incredible, shocking to me.

Carol Swain has questioned the sources and motives behind the story in some tweets today, but concedes that it's "quite unfortunate if the incident occurred." Her questions come as a result of her views of Crewof42, a Twitter handle for Lauren Victoria Burke, whom Swain calls a "mouthpiece" of the Congressional Black Caucus.

First, I haven't seen anyone directly dispute that any of these incidents occurred. Second, I didn't notice that Swain dealt with the epithets directed at Congressman Frank. She may have, but I didn't see it. Third, it's not hard to imagine that a few individuals at a rally where the rhetoric is boiling might do just the kind of things that have been reported.

The Tea Party has already been getting a xenophobic rap. Will anti-Black and anti-gay stick, too? It depends. The leaders--and who can figure out exactly who they all are?--should condemn these actions. The outcome of the upcoming health care reform vote should give the movement plenty of opportunity for reflection on how they go forward. Part of that reflection ought to involve a frank discussion of their approach to minorities.

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