Dear Mr. Freeman,
My name is Ali Akbar. I’m a 26 year-old African-American small business owner and a tea party activist. I’m not writing to rake you over the coals in the way that many conservatives have done in the last 48 hours. Heck, I wrote a passionate open-letter refuting many of your claims already, but this is not that. This is an honest and standing invitation. I do believe that you are wrong in what you said about the tea party, but I would rather prove it to you than castigate you for your comments.
I also understand that your reflexive comments came from experience. You grew up in a different America than the one that I was blessed to be born into. We both grew up in the south, but I never saw ‘White Only’ signs. I’ve been called a name or two in my three decades, but racism has always been the exception in my life, not the rule, as it probably was in your youth. I understand your suspicion of conservative political movements. It is rooted in pain and fear and memory, and though I never saw the horrors of segregation that you did, we share that cultural heritage. …
I’ve attended dozens of tea party events. I’ve helped organize them, and I’ve even spoken at a few. The tea party is not what is often depicted in the news. It is people of all colors who are terribly concerned about the direction that America is heading. We don’t trust big government to make decisions for us. And we fear that the present administration’s spending is going to lead our country down a path to insolvency, much like what Greece is currently facing.
Mr. Freeman, I’m not asking you to adopt my political views. You’re in your seventies, and a political shift is not in your future. I’m reaching out to you because I want you to think better of your fellow countrymen. Barack Obama is in the White House, and Herman Cain just won the Florida straw poll. America is the land of opportunity for black Americans like never before.
I’m hoping that you’ll come to a tea party in Tennessee — the place of your birth. Really anywhere in the country that works for you; I’ll set it up with the one of the thousands of activists I know around our great country. I’d be delighted to introduce you to good people who will welcome you with open arms, disagree with you, and then feed you some of the best barbecue you’ve ever tasted. …
If only we were all so thoughtful and respectful and caring about those with views different from our own.