The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

Tea Party Movement: Not Racist, Say Black Members

This article appears in the recent edition of the New Journal and Guide, a weekly African American newspaper in Hampton Roads. Thanks to Leonard Colvin for the great writeup!

A year after the Tea Party got underway in response to the policies of President Obama and the Democratically-controlled U.S. Congress, on of the impressions most African Americans have of the movement is that it is hostile to the interests of African Americans.

This idea has been generated by images on cable television on print news articles of members holding signs with racist remarks written on them. Some signs have Tea Party members marching with posters depicting the President as the joker or a pimp.

But Tea Party activists say their movement nor most of its members are racist. In fact, activists and leaders of the national and loosely organized movement, are quick to point out there are number of Blacks among their ranks.

It is hard to define how many Blacks are involved, but the media, including the New Journal and Guide, has been finding them and interviewing them in recent weeks.

Locally, Coby Dillard is one of them. Dillard did outreach to the Black community for Gov. Bob McDonnell’s gubernatorial operation last year. Dillard was briefly a Republican candidate in a run against Congressman Robert Scott in the Third Congressional District.

Dillard, a former military man, said that during his tenure in the military, issues of national security, the war on terrorism and increased federal spending made him gravitate to the GOP.

The Navy veteran is now enrolled in college on his G.I. Bill and living with his family in Norfolk’s Ocean View area. He says he has no ambition to run for office these days, but he is fervently involved in the Tea Party Movement, seeking to promote its cause especially to African Americans.

Dillard, 20, said he has found that goal easier said than done.

He says the Tea Party, although conservative and mostly white, had people with a variety of views on social, political and economic issues, including those who may harbor racial prejudices.

Many liberal political activists and academics say a Black man being President has stirred up the old states’ rights political fervor which challenged the federal protection of Blacks in erasing racist Jim Crow laws.

A recent ABC-Washington Post poll stated that distrust of government, opposition to the President’s and his party’s policies related to increased government spending, health care and other liberal stances are the main motivations. Only 30 percent say that race may have been a factor.

“It’s not an organization based on racial hatred. And it’s not all white,” said Dillard. “Most of the Blacks who have joined that I know of have philosophical differences with Obama and the Democrats. We are worried about the federal debt. I have two children and each one of them is worth $42,000 in federal debt. I think we should slow government spending. To do that you must reduce taxation and the size of government.”

Dillard is the co-founder of the Hampton Roads’ unit of the movement which began operation last year. He said there are not a lot of Blacks on the local membership rolls. He attends movement gatherings regularly, locally and around the state and encounters few Black activists.

The census of Blacks in the movement gets only slightly larger in Northern Virginia, among various cells which may count about 20 members overall.

One reason why Blacks may not be warm to the idea of joining the Tea Party, Dillard said, is its ideological proximity to the Republican Party. Although party activists are more inclined to support Conservative Republican ideals, it is not a subsidiary of either political national party.

Dillard said the shallow number of Blacks in the Tea Party reflects African American fear and suspicions of the GOP and the Tea Party movement on economic equality, multiculturalism, civil rights and other progressive related issues.

Dillard learned the hard way that addressing such issues using the orthodox right-wing rhetoric of the GOP and the Tea Party does not go down well in the Black community, rural or urban.

“Blacks have conservative views on family, community, hard work and religion which should endear them to the Tea Party,” said Dillard. “But when I was exploring the iead of running for the Repulican nomination (earlier this year) for the Third Congressional District (mostly Democrat) I knew if I told voters I was a member of the Tea Party or the Republican Party, I would lose them.”

Dillard did withdraw from the race.

Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr., the Senior Pastor of the Exodus Faith Ministries Church in Chesapeake, is another Black activist involved in the Tea Party. He served in the Marine Corps, has a Phi Beta Kappa key and is a graduate of Harvard Law and Divinity schools. He is a native of Chester, PA. He and his wife started the small congregation in 1998.

“I am involved because I believe the Bible scripture outline all of the values we should obey,” said Bishop Jackson. “I believe the President and Congress do not believe in those values. The Tea Party is filled with people who adhere to those Judeo-Christian values we have strayed from, including being against debt, which the current government is not.”

Dillard mentioned the term “urban conservatives,” a movement driven by young Black urban professionals who believe the economic independence, home ownership, respect for education and traditional family values would cure many of the ills facing inner city African Americans. Dillard and others hope this movement could make inroads into Black communities.

He said the Tea Party rhetoric “would not go well in Norfolk’s Park Place community. We (the Tea Party should explain that by owning a home or a business, this empowers you. If you own a home or a business you do not want your profitability reduced by government at any level.

“So Tea Party activists are not inclined to go into Park Place to talk about financial literacy, owning your home and business,” said Dillard. “Unfortunately, Tea Party members live in communities which ‘surround’ the urban community. They avoid interacting with Blacks and this does not allow for a dialogue on issues which directly impact African Americans.”

Although the Tea Party defines itself as an independent movement, Republican icons such as Sarah Palin often stir up party activists when they hurl criticism at President Obama or attack his policies.

Dillard admits he and other Blacks in the movement are disturbed by any racist rhetoric or images displayed by white members of the Tea Party movement in news accounts and at rallies. Some leaders of the movement have been trying to get the most passionate activists to tone down their racist rhetoric.

“I do not believe the movement is racist,” said Bishop Jackson. “But the Democratic Party wants you to believe it is as part of their racial strategy. Black people are afraid of the Republican Party. They prefer to vote for the Democratic coalition of godless abortionists, homosexual radicals, atheists and religious relativists. So they vote for the Democrats and vote against their own cultural interests and values. I am hoping to advocate that African Americans join a movement which adheres to purely Christian values.”

Although Dillard deems himself a citizen of the right-leaning fold of American politics, there are issues where his views are moderate.

Dillard said he disagrees with Virginia’s and other states denying voting rights and other privileges to convicted felons. He said if an individual has served his time and paid his fines, “why should their constitutional rights be denied.” He admitted that many white conservatives [don’t] support the policy “because they know that will be fewer voters to support the [Republican] party. I just hate the politics which impact this critical issue.”

“Mr. Obama’s healthcare plan is not socialist as some in the party might call it,” said Dillard. “There are some elements I agree with, such as not denying people coverage if they have a pre-existing condition and making insurance companies devote more of their resources toward covering people. I disagree with the mandate that people have to buy insurance. I am just concerned about the cost.”

Dillard was born in Oklahoma, enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and has spent a tour of duty in Guantanamo Bay, guarding prisoners rounded up during the nation’s war on terror.


Written by Coby Dillard

May 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Editorials

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