(CNSNews.com) - NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said Monday he looks forward to meeting with House Republican leader Richard Armey (R-Tex.) and other Republican congressional leaders to talk about racial issues.
Mfume said he hopes the meeting will "turn down racial rhetoric" and lay the groundwork "for a different type of coexistence and cooperation between the NAACP and the Republican Party."
Mfume, who served with Armey in the House before becoming NAACP president, told Armey, "On the issue of race, the American people have every right to expect that we will work together to achieve real and lasting progress. Under that rubric, our mantra must read, 'race baiters of either ilk need not apply.'"
A spokesman for Armey's office said that as of Monday morning, a meeting date had not been set, but he added that the time and place could be worked out within the next couple of days.
Last Thursday, Armey wrote to Mfume, asking for a meeting to discuss political polarization and the portrayal of Republicans as racists.
"I believe there is a phenomenon in American politics today that could justly be called 'racial McCarthyism' or 'reverse race-baiting,'" Armey wrote. "Deliberate or not, if left unchallenged, this practice will continue to divide our nation," Armey said in his letter.
Mfume, in a reply to Armey, wrote, "I received your letter in the same genuine manner in which you authored it. I'm glad to know that you are deeply concerned about the perils of racial polarization and its ability to undermine and strangle both social and political progress. Like you, I know that all Republicans are not racists or bigots and neither are all Democrats saints or savors."
Mfume added, "I will be writing President Bush in the next several days to request a face to face meeting to begin a new path and a new dialogue absent of accusations and finger pointing. I equally look forward in the interim to sitting down with you at your request to start a similar discussion."