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How the Tea Party's "Black Conservatives" Reacted to the Zimmerman Verdict

In the hours after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and acquitted on manslaughter charges, the Tea Party News Network—a shoestring operation that is exactly what it sounds like and that launched last fall—sent out an email blast touting the voices of "black conservatives" sounding off on the verdict. The press release featured statements from five people, all of whom provided a view that seemed to clash with that of Rev. Al Sharpton.

"While I’m thrilled with this outcome, it should never have come to this. This case should never have been brought forward," wrote Horace Cooper, a former law professor. "The rush to arrest and indict Zimmerman merely to appease the media or race-based interest groups not only jeopardized Mr. Zimmerman’s rights and liberty, but the precedent suggests that all of our rights could be infringed."

"Despite a not guilty verdict, we must remember that George Zimmerman is not truly free," wrote Lisa Fritsch. "This trial will forever remain in his mind for his remaining days."

"For too long, people such as the NAACP’s Ben Jealous and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have spoke out in hate and ignorance and found placement in the media," wrote Emery McClendon. "It’s time to stop the madness. We must turn the tide. If we put as much time into restoring our Constitution as we did into the Zimmerman trial, America would be a better place for all of us."

Never heard of them? Cooper, it turns out, was once a staffer for Dick Armey and was charged with five counts of public corruption for exchanging gifts from Jack Abramoff for political favors. Fritsch, a Tea Partier and occassional Fox commenter, has ranted about the "diabolical liberal agenda...corrupting the black community." McClendon, a self-described Tea Party activist in Iowa, has penned circuitous missives explaining why the Tea Party is not racist. (Why is the Tea Party not racist? Because "the tea parties are not picking on anyone because of color, ethnicity or race.") 

The three of them were writing for Project 21, a black conservative policy group. It's not totally clear from their HTML website what it is they do, other than provide commentary, but they sure made a splash in 2005 when the Senate passed a resolution apologizing for not doing more to stop lynchings of black people. Project 21 dismissed the resolution, and called on people "not to wallow in apologies and regrets." (This was a statement Fritsch, incidentally, helped to draft.) Mychal Massie, until recently the head of Project 21, once lambasted Al Sharpton, saying he had "hijacked" MLK's message and "prostituted it for personal gain." Today, many of the  center's policy papers are written by David Almasi, who heads the umbrella group to which Project 21 belongs and who is white. 

Project 21, tellingly, was founded in 1992, to provide "diversity" in the voice emanating from the black community in the wake of the 1992 Rodney King riots. Which, of course, is what every white conservative commentator was invoking in the two days after the verdict—but the riots, notoriously, didn't materialize. (Breitbart ran a photo Sunday of a young black man lighting what it said was a "marijuana cigarette" off the charred remains of what it said was a burned American flag. It also ID'd Sharpton as "during the Crown Heights Riots, where his role as an agitator is believed by many to have resulted in the mob violence behind the stabbing death of a Jewish scholar visiting from Australia.")

Still, it didn't keep from the white trenchmates of Project 21 from fanning the flames of racial strife. Days before the verdict, the Tea Party News Network sent out a bulletin warning of "race riots." "Like the southerners of old, whites, Hispanics and others today are concerned about black violence," wrote Alan Caruba, a frequent contributor to TPNN. He goes on:

Taking 1964 as a starting point, there were seven race riots that year, three of them in my home state, with others in Philadelphia, Rochester, New York, and Chicago. The famed Watts riot occurred in 1965. Riots continued in 1966, 1967, and most actively in 125 cities in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They tapered off in the 1970s and 80s. There were five riots in the 1990s and, as the new millennium began there were riots in Cincinnati (2001), Toledo (2005), Los Angeles (2006), and in Oakland (2009).

He then alludes to the work of Colin Flaherty, who writes on a site whose url is "whitegirlbleedalot," who had this to say about the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, the last person to have spoken to Trayvon Martin. "You might not know why Trayvon Martin’s friend seemed hostile and dim and ill mannered when she was testifying about their last conversation," Flaherty asks. Why? Critical Race Theory, which, he says, has "become an industry," making people feel like "black people are normal. White people are different." 

You look at something like this, and you see that the problem is not that there are mainstream and splinter views on the Zimmerman case in the black community, but that the splinter ones, even when, like some posts on Project 21, expressing a more moderate view, are forced to share a platform with people who bemoan "reverse racism" while invoking the old goblin of black-on-white violence. It's small things like this that will never convince minority voters that an increasingly radicalized GOP, hostage to Tea Party absolutists, is worth voting for because of their economic platform. Not that the GOP cares about winning them over anyway. It seems to have given up that quest rather quickly.