South Central Los Angeles Tea Party Leader Defends Movement
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson is the founder of the South Central Los Angeles Tea Party and the Brotherhood Organization for a New Destiny (BOND), a group dedicated to a conservative agenda among African Americans. On his radio show and other media appearances, Peterson calls for an end to affirmative action and government programs that assist low-income Americans. He is a vocal opponent of the Congressional Black Caucus, President Barack Obama and popular black leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson.
As a leader in the Tea Party movement, Peterson defends its agenda and condemns opponents’ assertions that racism exists within its ranks. Peterson and a small group of Tea Party supporters attended a town hall at the California Legislature Black Caucus policy conference on Sept. 30 to ask members of the panel to apologize for statements made by congressional black leadership that characterized the Tea Party as racist. Peterson specifically sought an apology for Rep Maxine Waters’ (D-Calif.) statement that the Tea Party could “go straight to hell.”
Peterson has gained media attention for his controversial views on race-related issues. He described those stranded in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina as “lazy” and “welfare-pampered.” During the Danish cartoon controversy, he labeled Islam “an evil religion.” On his radio show, Peterson thanked God for slavery, saying that it allowed blacks the opportunity to get out of Africa and into the United States. His organization, BOND, regularly releases reports about issues of race. The organization seeks to strengthen black families and communities by calling on them to be self-reliant.
Neon Tommy: How would you characterize the Tea Party as a whole? What range of ideologies exist within the movement?
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson: The Tea Party movement is about American people coming together to save our country. It’s about low taxes, small government, freedom, and the Constitution. If we do not deal with those issues, it’s over for America. Big government is not good for us. Things only get worse when you grow the government. Stop spending. Stop taxing. Get rid of some of these regulations that are hurting small businesses and preventing them from hiring people. It is made up of all people: Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, because it’s about the freedom of America.
NT: You’re from South Central Los Angeles, a community hit particularly hard by the struggling economy, in terms of rates of unemployment, poverty and home foreclosure. Looking at that community and low-income communities like it around the nation, what is the problem and what is the solution?
Peterson: The reason that poverty levels are higher in the South Central Los Angeles area than the national average is because of big government. For the last 50 years or so, black Americans especially, have relied on the government to feed them, house them, clothe them and raise their children. As a result of that, they have lost that desire to work for themselves, to build businesses and become independent. They’re addicted to government.
When you become addicted to government, you lose that sense of moral fiber, that character to work for yourself. That’s why I often tell black Americans that it’s not racism that is holding you back, it’s too much government in your lives. It’s time that you start taking care of yourselves and you’ll be surprised at what you can do. The solution is to turn away from the government. Get a good education. Get married before having children out of wedlock. Start your own businesses when you can. Save money and invest back into your communities instead of investing your lives back in to the government.
NT: If these communities received zero support from the federal government, how would they look in the years ahead?
Peterson: I promise you that if they knew their unemployment was going to run out in six months, they’d get up and get a job. They’d start to rebuild their families. They would start to feel better about themselves because they’re out building the character. Within the next year or two, you wouldn’t recognize the inter-city because they would be building their communities, buying homes, taking care of their properties. They’re going to make sure the gang-members don’t come around and mess up their properties. Ownership brings out something within you, a sense of responsibility. You’d start to once again see the black community come back to the way things were before Lyndon B. Johnson, when they turned their lives over to the government.
NT: The public’s understanding of the Tea Party is largely dictated by media coverage, what have you thought of coverage of the movement over the past several years? Has it been fair?
Peterson: I personally think that the media is wicked. They have lied about us. They call us racist. They say we hate blacks or we hate Obama. That’s not true. We hate big government. We want smaller government. The liberal media has taken the side of the Democrats and Barack Obama. I have no respect for the liberal press anymore. It’s not an honest media anymore. They lie to the people about what the Tea Party is about. Not only do I run the South Central Los Angeles Tea Party, I speak to other Tea Parties around the country all of the time. Not once have I come in contact with a racist person that’s involved in the movement.
NT: Why do you think that characterization exists—that the Tea Party is racist?
Peterson: It’s because of brainwashing. Whenever you tell minorities that white people are against them—that white people are racist, they go into a hypnotic trance, and they believe that lie. They are already are angry at white Americans and have been made to be angry for the last 50 years by the gatekeepers of the democratic party—the Congressional Black Caucus, most of the black preachers. They’ve been told, generation after generation, that the Republican Party is a racist party, and they believe it. That’s why the liberal media and the so-called black leadership align on the Tea Party movement. They want to keep black Americans on the plantation of the Democratic Party and benefit from it.
NT: Is the Tea Party movement moving towards becoming a political party itself? If not, why not?
Peterson: It’s not becoming a political party, because it’s not about that at all. It’s about regular folks of all ages and races getting together and fighting for what’s right for this country. It’s not about a political party. We want to send people to Washington D.C. that realize they work for us. We don’t work for them.
NT: Which of the 2012 presidential contenders most closely embodies the ideas of the Tea Party?
Peterson: I would say Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann. Newt Gingrich to a certain degree, he’s really about business independence. Rick Santorum, somewhat. I can’t speak for the entire party, but I believe Ron Paul has good ideas about creating a smaller government and creating freedom, but I don’t agree with many of his ideas concerning foreign policy. Romney, as far as jobs, he’s good. But I’m not sure. I remember what he did in Massachusetts with Romneycare, so I’m not sure about him yet. I’m keeping an eye on him right now.
NT: Getting away from the Tea Party and focusing specifically on what you do with your organization, BOND—I recently read a report of yours titled “Black Thugs Gone Wild, White Americans Gone Silent.” The report provided several examples of race-related violence in which blacks were the perpetrators and whites the victims. The report urged readers to be outraged about instances of black violence toward whites. What type of conversations do you hope to start with this report?
Peterson: We have to face realities and a reality is that most black people are racist toward white Americans. In the last 50 years, the generations have gotten worse when it comes to hating white folks. White Americans are afraid to speak up for themselves for fear of being called racist. That has encouraged the hatred and anger even more so within the black community. When you’re afraid, you only encourage your enemies. These young black thugs that are going around attacking white Americans, they are saying “Kill whitey,” in many cases. They are going after the white man because of his color. White folks are under attack, and unless they understand that and start standing up for themselves in the right way, it’s only going to get worse.
NT: And what is the goal here—in suggesting to white America that they are under attack? Does this encourage racial unity or division?
Peterson: White people know they are under attack because they’re white, they’re just afraid to say it. I’m hoping that if I can encourage them to start a dialogue about it, to be honest about it, to call it what it is and get the law enforcement to do their job so we can head off race wars. If whites don’t do this, they’re going to come out fighting in the wrong way, and we are really going to have a situation in our country. The best way to deal with life is to deal with the reality of what’s happening. If you deal with an illusion, you’re never going to solve the problem.
NT: As a representative of the Tea Party, what did you hope to accomplish at your town hall meeting, and how did it go?
Peterson: I came here to this meeting tonight to tell the caucus that I am the founder of the South Central Los Angeles Tea Party. Maxine Waters and the CBC told us all we could go to hell and called us racist. The problem is that those people they are calling these names—many of those people voted for them. I asked the caucus tonight to apologize to the members of their communities that they’ve offended. They said no, so that shows how they feel about their constituents.
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