Conservative Black Preacher Calls for Tea Party Makeover on Racism
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 02:34:24 PM EST
Bishop Harry Jackson, a conservative African American activist with close ties to the religious right, suggests that it's time for the Tea Party to undergo a `PR makeover'

The debate over racism within the Tea Party movement has taken center stage over the past several weeks, especially after several Democratic Party congressmen were assaulted by racial slurs in Washington, D.C., just prior to important votes on health care reform. While some black conservatives are troubled by recent events, in general they maintain that they feel welcome at Tea Party activities. An Associated Press story recently detailed how several black conservatives have attached themselves to Tea Party events and are routinely called upon to be speakers at Tea Party rallies. Long time black conservatives, Thomas Sowell and Ward Connerly, have mounted vigorous defenses of the movement.  

CNN assigned Shannon Travis to ride along with the Tea Party Express and she found that "almost everyone I met was welcoming  to this African-American television news producer."

If black conservatives feel comfortable at Tea Party events, prominent black conservatives defend the movement, and a CNN producer feels like she is being treated respectfully by movement activists, then what is all the fuss about?

Tea Party in need of a PR makeover, says Bishop Harry Jackson

While many Tea Party spokespersons, leaders, and conservative columnists and bloggers appear to be oblivious to - or are in denial about -- the racist incidents that have transpired at Tea Party-organized events, another prominent black conservative, Bishop Harry Jackson, seems to have gotten the message, or at the least, he is willing to try and deal with that unpleasant Tea Party reality.

In a recent column titled "Is Brewing Tea Dangerous?", Jackson, an African American conservative with strong ties to the religious right, first excoriated Washington Post columnist Colbert King -- for his column equating some Tea Partiers behavior to the old segregationist crowd and to attendees at Louisiana rallies for David Duke -- and then suggested that what the Tea Partiers need is full-blown PR-directed makeover.

Jackson offered up a tablespoon of advice to the Tea Party movement: Clean up your image. "Now that you know how you are perceived [by the media], what are you going to do"?, Jackson asked.

Taking a quick timeout from crusading against same-sex marriage, and campaigning to defeat the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Jackson, the head of an entity called the High Impact Leadership Coalition, is warning Tea Partiers that they need to pay attention to both the way the media has focused in on several high-profile racist incidents at Tea Party gatherings, and on their overall image.  

"In response to Tea Party critics, conservative media pundits have spent countless hours defending the movement and its motives," Jackson wrote. "I believe that the Tea Party deserves the benefit of the doubt. Nonetheless, it must dispel the idea that it's a new manifestation of older racist movements."

In his column, Jackson acknowledged that the while Tea Partiers were a day late and a dollar short in their response to recent racist incidents in the nation's capital, there was still time to clean up their act. And the best way to do that is through a serious makeover: "As someone who believes that the Tea Party movement is a return to foundational American values, I suggest a PR makeover. The worst thing that could happen to this movement is that its important message gets marginalized because of poor messaging and management."

Getting specific with his recommendations, Jackson wrote that Tea Partiers should "apologize for the disrespect many of its members showed [Rep.] Emmanuel Cleaver and other members of Congress two weeks ago"; "the movement should have rally leaders go through media training and establish a message for each and every event"; and, "as the movement grows, it should feature more black and Hispanic speakers." The latter recommendation should not be seen as "window dressing because millions of minorities share Tea Party concerns but are put off by the movement's disparaging mainstream media image."

Not everyone on the religious right agrees with Jackson's thinking about the need for a makeover. Ken Connor is the former head of the Family Research Council who currently heads a group called the Center for a Just Society. In a recent Ideas in Action post, Connor maintained that charges of Tea Party racism was media-concocted. In reality, Connor wrote, the "demographic composition of the movement is an almost exact reflection of the American population .... [with a] dynamic mix of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents from diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds ..." According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll taken last month, about 79 percent of tea party members are white and 6 percent are black, with 15 percent falling into other racial categories. (U.S. census figures (2008) show that nearly 33% of the American people are minorities.)

Newly formed Federation of Tea Party supporters aims to quickly respond and debunk charges of racism

A new group calling itself the National Tea Party Federation may or may not address the issue of Tea Party racism. The Associated Press recently reported that Tea Party leaders from Memphis, Tenn., Richmond, Va., and Orlando, Fla., along with representatives of maybe as many as twenty other groups including Tony Perkins' Family Research Council, announced the new National Tea Party Federation during a rally outside the Minnesota Capitol.

Memphis Tea Party founder Mark Skoda "said the organization also hopes to rebut allegations about the movement: `Everything from calling the tea party members racist, that we are violent, that somehow we are fermenting another Kristallnacht. These accusations are indeed false and they won't stand.'"

Bishop Harry Jackson serves on Peter Wagner's elite Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders. On cynical days I'm prone to substitute "strategic and public relations consultants" for "elders" in that title of Wagner's Council, because those are core functions of the ACPE.

Wagner's wing of the Christian right has long recognized that the racism some evangelical conservatives are dragging in tow damages the Christian conservative movement. The picture below, an ad for the May 2008 "Blend: Christians Against Racism" conference,  illustrates the extent to which the New Apostolic Reformation is aggressively repudiating racism.

To reinforce the point, here's video footage of Cindy and Mike Jacobs at a 2008 event on the US/Mexico border repudiating past anti-Hispanic racism.

Cindy Jacobs has for years been listed as one of C. Peter Wagner's apostles in Wagner's International Coalition of Apostles. ICA apostle Jim Ammerman, one of the few honorary lifetime members (fees for ICA membership are waived for honorary ICA members) of Peter Wagner's ICA, is implicated in the incitement of  anti-Jewish, anti-Hispanic, and anti-Muslim hatred.

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 04:14:51 PM EST

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