I can put myself in the shoes of Tea Party members sometimes. As uncomfortable as that position may be (conceiving their ideology requires aspirin,) from time to time it can be accessible. When someone (who shall remain nameless) claiming Tea Party affiliation recently committed libel against Shirley Sherrod, I was incensed but a part of me had some empathy.
I am a Black American. It is a social/political identity that I’ve adopted until something better is made possible. It’s an identity made more complicated by the differing views, goals, and motives of others who claim the same. These people vary from the guy in my barbershop who believes that HIV/AIDS was created to kill Black people to the public figures like Al Sharpton and organizations like the NAACP.
Recently, Congresswoman Maxine Waters joined the fray when she stated of her ongoing ethics proceedings that it was time “to stand up and be proud of the fact that we’re representing our people, we’re representing our issues, and we’re not taking a back seat because somehow somebody believes that every time we move to be an advocate we’re doing something wrong.”
She was appearing on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s Keepin’ It Real radio show when she mounted this as a defense for the seeming conflict of interest of having her grandson/Chief-of-Staff lobby on behalf of a bank in which her husband owns stock. She was doing it on behalf of people like me, possibly like you.
So like the policy-motivated Tea Partiers, however few I suspect them to be, I am in the position of once again having my worldview, motives, and goals compromised by a member of my political and social community. The hedge of protection provided by “community” will take a hit because many of my fellow Black Americans will circle the wagons around Waters. After all, she has fought tirelessly on behalf of progressive politics in other instances. It’s a hit that many of us are willing to take because her good outweighs her bad (or is at least more public.)
But, speaking for myself and no one else, I encourage Congresswoman Waters to not dip her hand in the cookie jar on my account. I’d appreciate if the NAACP stopped their symbolic burials and pissing contest with the Tea Party too. If CNN wants to hear my voice then I’d suggest that they interview my senator or representative, rather than any self-anointed Negro expert.
There are plenty of people who sound like me, even more who look like me. There are a select few who I’ve chosen to speak for me and even less who do it accurately.