Your humble blogger went to see Niger Innis at the University Near Here last night; his appearance was sponsored by an odd-couple of student organizations: the College Republicans and the Diversity Support Coalition. I estimated attendance at 50-60 people; not enough to fill the Strafford Room at the Memorial Union Building, but a decent turnout nonetheless.
Mr. Innis is the National Spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of the oldest civil rights organizations in America. His father, Roy Innis, has led the group since 1968. CORE has been controversial for being more friendly to Republicans than your typical civil rights group.
Mr. Innis expressed his gratitude for the invitation (and further gratitude for being invited up to UNH in April, instead of say, November or February). He was a pretty good speaker, assured and voluble.
The major part of his speech concerned energy policy: specifically the disparate impact of proposed "cap and trade" legislation and EPA greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations on the poor. Attendees were given a one-page handout from the Affordable Power Alliance (PDF available here), full of scary (and for all I know, true) statistics about the EPA's GHG regulations. For example, that they will "Increase the poverty rate for African Americans by 2025 from 24% to ~30% -- an increase of 20%".
Almost as a postscript, Mr. Innis then tackled the issue of Tea Party "racism". He pooh-poohed it; he noted that he had been to a number of Tea Party rallies, and he was invariably treated "like a rock star". He noted that alleging racism was nowadays a cudgel used to shut off debate and delegitimize one's opponents.
After the speech, Mr. Innis took questions from the audience. Most, but not all, were supportive. (This is a university, after all.) One attendee took exception to his characterization of pro-cap-n-trade environmental groups as the "Green Mafia"—after all, didn't the Mafia kill people? This lead to a general discussion about civility in political discourse. As usual, many are only concerned with it when it's conservatives doing the discoursing.
Another questioner wanted to make the argument that the Tea Partiers were (indeed) racist. Mr. Innis rebutted him with the (by now) familiar debunking of the March 20 incident where it was alleged that n-word slurs were hurled at members of the Congressional Black Caucus who marched through a Tea Party gathering.
I had to leave before the Q-and-A wound up, unfortunately, but Mr. Innis dealt with even semi-hostile questioning with easy humor. A good guy. Both the College Republicans and the Diversity Support Coalition deserve the University's gratitude for bringing him on campus.