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Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and Tea Parties: The Gipper’s NAACP Warning to Extremists

| July 31, 2011

Maybe more Earl Grey than Lipton: Ronald Reagan delivering his presidential acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Detroit on July 17, 1980. (White House Photographic Collection)

Maybe more Earl Grey than Lipton: Ronald Reagan delivering his presidential acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Detroit on July 17, 1980. (White House Photographic Collection)

By Zach Roberts

As I write this the 102nd Annual NAACP convention is going on in Los Angeles. Right now in fact they’re having their late night Worship service. It’s a quiet year for the convention – so far no controversial resolutions, no Presidential visits, just business as usual.

Last year was a different story.

The NAACP was celebrating it’s 101st year – they decided to draw up a resolution. Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau explained it – “[the resolution] calls on the Tea Party and all people of good will to repudiate the racist element and activities within the Tea Party.” Once the story leaked that the tentative resolution had been drawn up, Ben Jealous the President of the NAACP followed up with, “It’s time for the Tea Party to be responsible members of this democracy and make sure they don’t tolerate bigots or bigotry among their members.”

Cue Sarah Palin’s freakout. Blood Libel! Ronald Reagan! Facebook! A Press Release!

I am saddened by the NAACP’s claim that patriotic Americans who stand up for the United States of America’s Constitutional rights are somehow “racists.” The charge that Tea Party Americans judge people by the color of their skin is false, appalling, and is a regressive and diversionary tactic to change the subject at hand.

Zach Roberts

Zach Roberts

President Reagan called America’s past racism “a legacy of evil” against which we have seen the long struggle of minority citizens for equal rights. He condemned any sort of racism, as all good and decent people do today. He also called it a “point of pride for all Americans” that as a nation, we have successfully struggled to overcome this evil. Reagan rightly declared that “there is no room for racism, anti-Semitism, or other forms of ethnic and racial hatred in this country,” and he warned that we must never go back to the racism of our past.

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His words rang especially true in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 presidential election. It seemed that with the election of our first black president, our country had become a new “post-racial” society. As one writer in the Washington Post stated: “[Barack Obama’s] election isn’t just about a black president. It’s about a new America. The days of confrontational identity politics have come to an end.”

Oh if it were only true. If only we could bring this post-racial society into being.

The one where Blacks weren’t terrorized anymore by white supremacists.

Or where Muslims/Arabs patriotism wasn’t questioned by sitting members of Congress like some modern day McCarthy Hearings.

Or where Hispanic children wouldn’t get shot in their homes at night.

Or where former Governors from Alaska wouldn’t cozy up with guys from Arizona that have ties to White Supremacist groups.

There’s one thing tying all these together – The Tea Party.

As of yet, I haven’t seen the press releases decrying the murderers in their midst. I haven’t seen the Facebook status updates saying “They don’t represent us!” They just cry blood libel. They blame it on the Muslims, but never look inward.

My only hope is that they look to their leader, their savior… no, not the long-haired sandal-wearing hippy from Palestine, but the failed actor President Ronald Reagan. I’ve been sitting on this gem for a while now, waiting for the right moment to release it into the wild. The clip is from Ronald Reagan’s address to the 1981 NAACP Convention.

Reagan Speaking at the 1981 NAACP Convention:

“…And while our communication should always deal with current issues of importance, it must never stray far from our national commitment to battle against discrimination and increase our knowledge of each other.

“A few isolated groups in the backwater of American life still hold perverted notions of what America is all about. Recently in some places in the nation there’s been a disturbing reoccurrence of bigotry and violence. If I may, from the platform of this organization, known for its tolerance, I would like to address a few remarks to those groups who still adhere to senseless racism and religious prejudice, to those individuals who persist in such hateful behavior. If I were speaking to them instead of to you, I would say to them, You are the ones who are out of step with our society. You are the ones who willfully violate the meaning of the dream that is America. And this country, because of what it stands for, will not stand for your conduct.’ My administration will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who, by violence or intimidation, would attempt to deny Americans their constitutional rights.”

Sound like anyone we know?

Zach Roberts is TheMudflats New York Bureau Chief and the Gil Palast Memorial Fellow, he has produced for BBC Newsnight. Currently he is working on his first feature length documentary, a film about Alaskan politics – The Rogue Candidate. This piece was originally published at, and appears here by permission.

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12 Responses for “Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and Tea Parties: The Gipper’s NAACP Warning to Extremists”

  1. Sam says:

    Thugs, Gangs, Drugs, Drive-by Shootings……… Yea, those bad Tea Party people !

  2. lawabidingcitizen says:

    I’ve seen no evidence of racism among tea party members, but Mr. Bond and the rest of the NAACP leadership with their hate filled rhetoric are racists of the first order.

  3. Ella says:

    I might be mistaken, but isn’t this AMERICA? Not to be an instigator…but everyone is entitled to their beliefs. That is part of being free.

  4. Anita says:

    “I’ve seen no evidence of racism among tea party members, but Mr. Bond and the rest of the NAACP leadership with their hate filled rhetoric are racists of the first order.” lawabiding, etc.

    Let me help you with your blindness. Check this site : If you choose to educate yourself, all you have to do is Google, “Tea Party racism” and you’ll discover the ugliness beneath the flag waving bull shit. Always glad to help.


  5. Ed says:

    @Anita. A racist can’t see the racism among his peers if he is in the same “mindset”. A group of people with the same train of thought can only see the “good” their minds tell them that they are doing irregardless of how anybody else feels.

  6. PCer says:

    The scary thing about the tea party racists is that they are right in front of us, but they don’t shout their racism from the rooftops. I have not yet met a tea party believer who is not a racist – I know they are racist because several of them are members of my family.

  7. Liana G says:

    Not all tea party groups are racist, some are still small independent grassroots movements protesting big gov’t. But there are quite a few groups that have been hijacked by organizations such as Freedom Works that saw an opportunity to use them to promote their agenda with newspeak and doublethink. I’ve seen tea party groups on national television jointly made up of hispanics, African Americans and whites members still trying to hold to the original purpose. Maybe that’s what needs to be done. Minorities should join these groups on a large scale and take back America for sure.

  8. Bigfoot says:

    I believe the most racist are SEIU , Acorn and others that BEAT and INTimate at voting areas. Why no outcry here? Lawabiding citizen is right on the mark

  9. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Bigfoot, you don’t know the half of it.

  10. Rob says:

    The KKK has changed to stealth mode. It now uses it plainclothes division. The Teabaggers.

  11. NortonSmitty says:

    LAC , You and Stinkfoot don’t know the half of any given subject. That.s why you spout off twice as much, to make up for it.

  12. Some guy says:

    @ L A W and Bigfoot A quote from Thomas Jefferson May help you with understanding this site and the lefts point of view. “It is useless to argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason as to administer medication to the dead”.

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