ALBANY, N.Y. -- They've been called Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms, and are used to having to defend their values. Now black conservatives really are taking heat for their involvement in the mostly white tea party movement, and for having the audacity to oppose the policies of the nation's first black president.
"I've been told I hate myself. I've been called an Uncle Tom. I've been told I'm a spook at the door," said Timothy Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group of black conservatives who support free market principles and limited government.
"Black Republicans find themselves always having to prove who they are, because the assumption is the Republican Party is for whites and the Democratic Party is for blacks," he said.
Johnson and other black conservatives said they were drawn to the tea party movement because of what they consider its commonsense fiscal values of controlled spending, less taxes and smaller government.
The fact that they are black, or that most tea partyers are white, should have nothing to do with it, they said.
"You have to be honest and true to yourself. What am I supposed to do, vote Democratic just to be popular? said Clifton Bazar, 45, a New Jersey freelance photographer.
Opponents have branded the tea party as a group of racists hiding behind economic concerns, and reports that some tea partyers were lobbing racist slurs at black congressmen during the heated health care vote give them ammunition.
But these black conservatives don't consider racism representative of the movement as a whole, or race a reason to support it.
Angela McGlowan, a black congressional candidate from Mississippi, said her tea party involvement is "not about a black or white issue."
"It's not even about Republican or Democrat, from my standpoint," she said. "All of us are taxed too much."
Still, as a grassroots movement with no registration or formal structure, there are no racial demographics available for the movement; it's thought to include only a small number of blacks and Hispanics.