Mississippi civil rights pioneer Raylawni Branch disrupted a Tea Party rally in Downtown Hattiesburg Tuesday when she questioned the motives of Tea activists.
Ron Vincent (R), who is challenging Congressman Steven Palazzo (R) for his seat in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, was calling on Palazzo to vote to defund the Affordable Care Act.
That’s when Branch spoke up. “What is there about Obamacare you don’t like?”
“I am losing my healthcare, and you are too,” Vincent responded, just before invoking his additional fear of “death panels.”
“No, I’m not,” Branch insisted. “I’m a retired lieutenant colonel from the Air Force, and I’m not losing anything.”
Branch, 73, was integral to the integration of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg when she became the school’s first black student to be admitted in 1965.
Hattiesburg has changed a lot since then, she said, but in groups like the Tea Party, “old mindsets” still remain. She told Tea Party members as much, indicating her belief that Obama’s “brown skin” might be their real motivation for opposing his policies.
But Tea Party leader Jennifer West said that racism was not a factor in the Tea Party’s opposition to Obamacare. African Americans, West said, have some of the worst healthcare rates and the highest incarceration rate in the nation. That, West said, isn’t caused by racism, but by “black culture.”
Branch questioned the Tea Party’s claim to Christian values, saying that Jesus would support healthcare for everyone.
Branch also defended LGBT people. When one Tea Party member claimed that liberals were using the “homosexual agenda” to destroy Christianity in America, Branch asked, “How can you say you love your brother if you don’t love him for who he is?”
“God created [gay people] that way,” she said.
“Why would God create someone if he was going to send them to hell for it?” the Tea Party member asked her.
“You know, that’s a good question,” said Branch.
Branch attended the March on Washington in 1963 where she watched Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. She said she hopes to attend the fiftieth anniversary march, where President Obama will speak, at the end of the month.