They’ve been called Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms, and are used to having to defend their values. Now black conservatives are really taking heat for their involvement in the mostly white tea party movement–and for having the audacity to oppose the policies of the nation’s first black president.
“I’ve been told I hate myself. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom. I’ve been told I’m a spook at the door,” said Timothy F. Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group of black conservatives who support free market principles and limited government.
“Black Republicans find themselves always having to prove who they are. Because the assumption is the Republican Party is for whites and the Democratic Party is for blacks,” he said.
Johnson and other black conservatives say they were drawn to the tea party movement because of what they consider its commonsense fiscal values of controlled spending, less taxes and smaller government. The fact that they’re black–or that most tea partyers are white–should have nothing to do with it, they say.
Opponents have branded the tea party as a group of racists hiding behind economic concerns–and reports that some tea partyers were lobbing racist slurs at black congressmen during last month’s heated health care vote give them ammunition.
But these black conservatives don’t consider racism representative of the movement as a whole–or race a reason to support it.
Some black conservatives credit President Barack Obama’s election–and their distaste for his policies–with inspiring them and motivating dozens of black Republicans to plan political runs in November.
For black candidates like McGlowan, tea party events are a way to reach out to voters of all races with her conservative message.
Tea party voters represent a new model for these black conservatives–away from the black, liberal Democratic base located primarily in cities, and toward a black and white conservative base that extends into the suburbs.
Black voters have overwhelmingly backed Democratic candidates, support that has only grown in recent years. In 2004, presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry won 88 percent of the black vote; four years later, 95 percent of black voters cast ballots for Obama.
“I’ve gotten the statement, ‘How can you not support the brother?'” said David Webb, an organizer of New York City’s Tea Party 365, Inc. movement and a conservative radio personality.
Since Obama’s election, Webb said some black conservatives have even resorted to hiding their political views.
The 38-year-old U.S. Marine Corps reservist recently walked into a bar in southern Maryland decorated with a Confederate flag. It gave his wife Rosha pause.
“I said, ‘You know what, honey? Many, many of our Southern citizens came together under that flag for the purpose of keeping their family and their state together,'” Lollar recalled. “The flag is not what you’re to fear. It’s the stupidity behind the flag that is a problem. I don’t think we’ll find that in here. Let’s go ahead in.”
Once inside, they were treated to a pig roast, a motorcycle rally–and presented with $5,000 in contributions for his campaign.
McGlowan, one of three GOP candidates in north Mississippi’s 1st District primary, seeks a seat held since 2008 by Democrat Travis Childers. The National Republican Congressional Committee has supported Alan Nunnelee, chairman of the state Senate Appropriations Committee, who is also pursuing tea party voters.