It’s not a typo: The South Central L.A. Tea Party exists, and Jesse Lee Peterson takes a bow for founding it. He’s also president and founder of the 23-year-old black bootstraps group Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, or BOND, and serves as pastor for a nondenominational congregation at its headquarters. As his public pronouncements make clear, he detests Planned Parenthood and legal abortion, welfare and the California-born black holiday Kwanzaa. He used to hold a “national day of repudiation” against Jesse Jackson; he has his doubts about women in high places. He is in demand as a black voice in conservative media, and his voice was still a little scratchy back home in L.A. after yet another speaking gig in the East.
Why did you form BOND?
I realized most black Americans are suffering not because of racism but lack of moral character. We need to rebuild the [black] family. Fathers and mothers should get married before having children. They will turn away from the so-called black leadership — Jesse Jackson, NAACP, Urban League — and think for themselves, as they did prior to the civil rights movement. There’s a problem when black children are born out of wedlock, with no shame, and you don’t worry because the government will take care of them. In the entertainment industry, it’s common — they do it like 90 going north, and proud of it.
“90 going north”?
When the slaves would sneak away from the plantation, they were going so fast we made a joke of it — they’re doing 90 going north, trying to get away.
You were once a Democrat; what changed your mind?
I believed the lie that because I was black, I wasn’t going to be able to make it because of the white man. When I came here [from his native Alabama], I was listening to people like Jackson and Louis Farrakhan — he used to come to the Forum in Inglewood. He talked about the blue-eyed devil, and I believed him. I started hating white people. You become like what you hate. My life went to hell. I ended up doing different kinds of drugs because I had so much guilt from the hatred. I ended up on welfare; they paid my rent, gave me food stamps, healthcare. But I got worse instead of better.
Once God changed my heart, I could no longer identify with the Democratic platform. It is anti-God, anti-family, anti-military, anti-anything that’s good. I switched parties.
Yours may be the only black-led tea party group in California. Why did you start it?
I realized the tea party movement was being lied about to black people. They were saying it’s a racist organization. That isn’t true. I’ve spoken at rallies around the country. I know they’re good folks. I want to educate blacks and Hispanics to what the tea party is about: less government, freedom, lower taxes, fewer regulations, God and country. The black community and part of the Hispanic community have been so brainwashed and dumbed-down and lied to, they don’t tend to look for information for themselves.
It’s been a little tough, but it’s starting to change. We had a 2nd Amendment rally in Westwood last year and we had a load of folks show up.
Young black men kill others with guns at a devastating rate. How does the 2nd Amendment solve that?
Blacks killing each other in Chicago and Detroit — that has nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment but everything to do with the destruction of the family. You could take away all the guns and they’ll find something else to kill each other with. It’s lack of family, lack of character.
Some tea party members split with the leadership over immigration reform. What’s your take?
Amnesty for illegal aliens would be devastating to our country and especially the black community. At BOND, we help guys find jobs, and many do day labor and construction work. It was easier to get those jobs 23 years ago. It’s nearly impossible now. Illegal aliens are able to do those jobs for little or nothing and many get paid under the table, so big businesses are for illegal aliens. And the Democratic Party is trying to get the Hispanic votes, that’s why they want amnesty.
How well do you think the GOP is making its case to black voters?
Not at all. They’re giving into the fear of being called racists. They’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. I’ve always thought they should have town hall meetings in the community, leave the [black] leadership out of it. Let [blacks] see for themselves what the Republican Party is all about. But they’re afraid to do that for fear of being called racist. They’ve really given up on the blacks.
You say it’s hard to find black Americans who aren’t angry and racist toward whites. Don’t they have something to be angry about, like the enduring legacy of slavery?
None of them were enslaved. We did far better living and working, more united as families [50 years ago] than blacks are doing today.
What is your family’s story?
My mother was dating my father when she was 16 or 17. She got pregnant with me. He denied it: “Oh, that’s not my child.” She became very angry at him; she stayed mad at him for a long time. She ended up marrying my stepfather before I was born because it was an embarrassment to have a child out of wedlock. He was a good man, but I never accepted him. I had a yearning for my father — that’s inside every child. I overcame my anger for my mother and encouraged her to forgive my father. Once I forgave my mother and God forgave me, I felt 100% better. I realized from that what was wrong with black Americans — most of them are filled with anger and it’s holding them back.
Growing up you worked the same land where your ancestors were once enslaved. Didn’t you experience racism there?
I did — colored-only signs, white-only signs. In the movie theater, blacks had to sit in the balcony. I was fine with that because we had a better view! I saw they were wrong, but we were taught not to hate. And we knew white people who weren’t doing those things.
Now, not all but most black people are so racist toward white people. And white Americans are afraid if they say the wrong thing, they’ll be accused of being racist.
The founding documents of this country didn’t consider you or me to be fully legal beings.
At one point there was definitely racism from white America, but that started to change over the last 40 or 50 years. White people realized, yeah, this did exist, we’re sorry, we’re going to [institute] stuff to help blacks get themselves together. They passed laws against white racism, but the problem is they have not had an honest dialogue about black racism.
Wasn’t the Civil Rights Act the right thing to do?
If they had just changed it so the same laws that protected white folks would protect black people and left us alone, things would be much better today. Change the law, then get out of the way of people coming together.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote controversially about the tangle of pathologies in black America.
He was 100% right. Had [society] listened to him, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation today. [Welfare] was a dumb idea; they believed it was better to get a government paycheck than have a man in the house — not all black families, but too many.
So-called civil rights leaders and the Democratic Party knew if they could get blacks to rely on government, they would hold them for generations, and that’s exactly what happened.
Welfare makes a person lazy, and you pass it on to the next generation. It took away their self-esteem. It really has been devastating to the black community.
Do you think that welfare influenced the high imprisonment rate for black men?
[Welfare] took the authority figure out of the home. When the father is not there to discipline and guide the children, kids don’t normally listen to mothers after a certain age. She tries to force her way on them and then they become angry. When fathers were there, fathers and mothers worked together. The family has been broken. The father is the spiritual head as well as the provider, and the mother and children respect that because it’s from God
What programs do you advocate for black Americans?
I would teach them trades. We’re starting a leadership academy for boys; when they finish high school, if they don’t want to go to college, at least they can know how to work for themselves.
You endorse marriage. Gays have fought for marriage.
Same-sex marriage doesn’t exist; there’s no such thing in God’s eyes. So-called same-sex marriage would destabilize society. Homosexuality is not about love or family or civil rights; it’s about sex.
What do you say to gay people you counsel?
I tell them they were not born that way, that a spirit has made a home inside of them that came from some sort of trauma — maybe they were molested at an early age or had angry parents — and that if they were to forgive their parents, then God will forgive them and remove that identity from them and they will be free.
What do you think of President Obama?
I think he’s the worst thing to ever happen to this country. He doesn’t care about black people. He’s selling them out for Hispanic votes. He cares more about homosexuals than he does about blacks. In healthcare and education — illegals have overpopulated public schools in South Central, and blacks are feeling pushed aside. They voted for Obama thinking he would be for them, and he’s not.
The Internet is full of stuff about Obama growing watermelons on the White House lawn, or Michelle Obama posing for National Geographic. Isn’t that racist?
It depends on the heart of the person doing it. If they’re just doing it to have some fun, I don’t see anything wrong with it. They did the same thing to Bush.
They didn’t make fun of him because of his race.
They aren’t making fun of Barack for being black either. It’s known that — not all — but black people love watermelons. It’s not a put-down. [Although] I’m sure you can find racists like the KKK who hate black people and will use something like that.
Do you use the term “African American”?
No. If you’re born in this country, you’re not an African American, you’re an American. It’s just foolish, another thing set up by the so-called civil rights leaders to divide blacks from whites. Booker T. Washington said “American.” And they hated Booker. If he were around today, they’d hate him as much as they hate me. They’d call him an Uncle Tom, a sellout. They want to give the impression that if you’re a black person who thinks for himself, you must be an Uncle Tom.
This interview is edited and excerpted from a tape transcript. For more: latimes.com/pattasks.