Signs Of Racism In The Tea Party
A little while ago I was listening on the radio to an interview with a conservative political pundit discussing whether or not the tea party is a harbinger of racism. You’ll have to forgive me. The interview was something like three weeks ago and the man’s name escapes me. I remember he responded with the usual, “that’s a great question.” He then went into a story about how in the early days of the tea party’s national recognition, there were some people who would come to the tea party rallies with signs that could be considered at best racially insensitive and at worse outright racially provocative. These people were approached and were asked to remove their sign because this wasn’t the image the tea party wanted to project. With few exceptions the people complied. This was supposed to be an example of how the tea party works to stop racism from infiltrating its ranks.
But while listening to the article I thought of two questions that should’ve been asked. The first question I thought the interviewer should ask was why would so many white people with a bone to pick with racial minorities feel comfortable boldly and openly expressing their affinity for racism at a tea party rally? Is it possible that with a focus on political solutions to issues that appear to favor the white community at the expense of other minorities, is it possible that such bias in its approach to protect the status quo that protects traditional American values that tolerates or even worse nurtures racial disparity speaks to people who are racists at heart? I think that’s a good question.
No other national political organization has done more to sow racial discord than the tea party. Instead of seeking deeper racial understanding the tea party wants to say that the status of our racial condition is nothing that needs to be examined and is not a factor for government. When tea party politicians like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul campaign with messages saying that business owners have a constitutional right to be as racist as they want to be, when tea party politicians say that property rights trump people’s right not to be denied products and/or services based on nothing more than the color of somebody’s skin, people with a racism in their heart see a kindred soul who understands the need to protect racism at the expense of racial harmony. That sounds good to many people who happen to have businesses and/or property and a hatred for black people. While people control the vast majority of wealth and businesses in this country so it’s a no brainer that they would support such a policy. For the government to do anything to correct the wealth imbalance is socialism run amok. A racist would be stupid to lend their support to anything else.
My second question was what would be the difference if somebody who is truly racist is holding a sign or not? To a person who has been the victim of racism it wouldn’t matter if the racist has on a shirt or is holding a sign that irrefutably reveals their racism. A racist by any other name or by any other identification is still a bigot. So when the tea party supporter says that they ask racists to remove their signs, one interpretation of what they are saying is that your racist sign is not welcome, but you the racist are welcome. Whether the company has a sign that says whites only or not, if the policy is not to offer service to black people the result is the same. While the sign might be offensive, it is not the real problem. The real problem is the person who feels entitled to hold the sign.
The tea party tells its members that it is okay for them to be racist, they just don’t want to give everyone else the benefit of having the racism they support out in the open. They are more than happy to keep racism on the down low so that they can make the false claim that the party is not out to sow seeds of racial disharmony. They are just trying to market a political stance of conservatism that is racially neutral but favors corporate America, another institution that is supposedly racially neutral, but somehow benefits the white community far more than it benefits the black community.
After listening to the interview I came away more convinced than ever that the racism of the tea party is thick and is here to stay. They may no longer come to the rally with their sign depicting Barack Obama as a lying African or as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose. They might not come to the rallies with the signs that have blatant racial epithets or racially insensitive remarks. But many of the people who did hoist those signs above their heads for everyone to see are still calling themselves members of the tea party. The tea party is chock full of people who are more than happy to wear their racism on their sleeves. For some of us, we don’t need a sign to clue us in to their true nature. Whether or not they hold signs over their heads all the signs you need to see who these people are and how these people think are still there.