A Sweet Tea Party

Thanks to my friend, Dr. Ricky Jones, for the opportunity to clarify my position regarding my recent tweets on Sen. Rand Paul (see the Oct. 23 issue of LEO Weekly). Twitter is a powerful tool to communicate, but 140 characters cannot provide a comprehensive platform to adequately exegete one’s position.

My tweet was in no way an endorsement of the senator as a political figure. The fact is, I have not endorsed any candidate in any political party. In fact, I believe the black community should be endorsed by our elected political leaders, not vice-versa. The power of our government lies with “We, the people,” not “We, the elected officials.” President Thomas Jefferson said, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

My tweet affirmed a series of race-specific comments that espoused an agenda I have held years before Paul became a senator. Because I am agenda-driven rather than party-driven, I can affirm the truth as I see it, regardless of its source.

Party-driven people stay with the party line without regard to whether that party is advancing their agenda. For example, many poor people who could benefit from the Affordable Care Act refuse to embrace it because they are party-driven. Agenda-driven politics evaluate all persons and positions on the basis of how they might promote policies that advance a particular agenda.

Was the United States pro-Communist when we partnered with Russia during World War II? Was Franklin D. Roosevelt pro-crime when he partnered with Organized Crime (Operation Underworld) to keep New York’s docks free of sabotage by Italians loyal to Mussolini?

No, these were agenda-based alliances. So, why am I now labeled a member of the Tea Party simply because I agreed with Sen. Paul’s position, one that advances my agenda as an institution builder in the West End?

One politician commented that my promoting anything associated with Rand Paul sends the wrong message to black people. Is he implying that only the white progressive masses are sophisticated enough to think didactically? I believe that politician felt free to make such a comment because progressives have claimed the black vote as their birthright.

I have no permanent friends or permanent enemies, but rather, a permanent agenda — one that was best articulated by black activist Stokely Carmichael as black power: “Black people taking care of business — the business of and for black people … exercising control over our lives, politically, economically and psychically.”

The late congressman, the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., once defined black power thusly: “Human rights are God-given. Civil rights are man-made. Our life must be purposed to implement human rights. To demand these God-given rights is to seek black power — the power to build institutions of splendid achievement.”

The problem with the liberal coalitions so many black people endorse is that we are used to advancing everyone else’s agenda. Rarely do we consider that few white liberals venture past Ninth Street to invest their resources in the West End and help build those institutions about which Adam Clayton Powell spoke.

I applauded Sen. Paul because I was glad to hear someone say “black, African-American.” Forgive me if I got a little excited. The words African-American came out of a 20-year exile. I didn’t endorse Sen. Paul’s agenda; rather, Sen. Paul endorsed mine:

• Ending mandatory federal sentencing guidelines — the worst public policy impacting black people since Plessy vs. Ferguson

• Ending black arrests in order to reach an arrest quota

• Restoration of full citizenship rights once a sentence has been completed

• Parents’ right to choose the schools their children attend

• Tax incentives for businesses that locate, hire and train people who live in the urban core

In order to advance such a black agenda, I suggest we form a Sweet Tea Party. Black folks tend to be fond of sweet tea. For white Tea Party supporters, Tea means “taxed enough already.” But in the Sweet Tea Party, Tea means “tricked enough already.”

Dr. Wendell Anthony, president of the NAACP Detroit Branch, said blacks are the “trick-or-treat” group of politics. Everyone else gets the treat, and we get the trick. Well, we have been tricked enough already! We will no longer be tricked by party-driven career politicians. We must become agenda-driven on issues that affect us.

The Rev. Dr. Kevin Cosby is the pastor of St. Stephen Church (ssclive.org) and president of Simmons College of Kentucky.