Political Physics: The Tea Party Revisited Three Months Later…
About three months ago, I pondered the question of whether or not the Tea Party was just another organized hate group masked under the legitimate veil of a political party. Back then; I concluded that even though there were clearly racist actions taken by the party that did not mean that the Tea Party itself was racist. However, as I noted back then, “there are hate groups and extremist organizations (not to mention several radical members of the Republic Party) that are using the movement to spread a message of hate and extremism in effect silencing the true anti-tax message of the movement. And there is leadership within the Tea Party that is well aware of what is happening and is turning a blind eye.” Today, I am wondering if I gave the Tea Party too much credit.
A friend, Roland Laird, wrote a great article for TheLoop21.Com entitled “NAACP Needs an Overhaul to Keep from Embarrassing Itself.” In the article, Roland asserts that the NAACP needs to move away from spending time condemning the Tea Party and the like for racist remarks. Roland writes, “As a lifetime member of the NAACP, I’m a believer in its mission of combating racism but last week’s denunciation of the Tea Party and the related recent denunciation of, then apology to USDA employee Shirley Sherrod, are clear examples why the NAACP needs to change its ways.” Roland suggests that the NACP should spend more time focusing on the economic issues that continue to plague the black community.
I agree with Roland that the NAACP and the black community as a whole could serve from shifting its focus to chronicling, strategizing and addressing the myriad economic issues facing the black community. However, I also believe that the NAACP’s efforts to highlight – however misguided in the case of Shirley Sherrod – racism in organization’s like the Tea Party are also valuable.
The fact is the NAACP resolution condemning racist elements within the Tea Party triggered the crazy series of responses from “spokesperson” Mark Williams and exposed the racism that I asserted a few months ago had permeated the Tea Party movement including senior level leadership.
As Joan Vennochi notes in her article, “Racism at the Tea Party” for Boston.Com, “Williams, a conservative radio talk show host, is known for what can most kindly be called edgy commentary: Anti-war activist and Gold star mother Cindy Sheehan ‘is on a mission to figuratively urinate on her son’s grave and make his death stand for nothing.’ Kanye West is ‘a Ku Klux Klansman in blackface.’ Obama is ‘an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.’”
Clearly Mr. Williams is a quite a colorful guy (to say the least).
So, none of us should have been surprised when he posted the following on his blog on July 15th:
Dear Mr. Lincoln:
We Colored People have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!
In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the ‘tea party movement’.
The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.
And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!
The racist tea parties also demand that the government “stop the out of control spending.” Again, they directly target Colored People. That means we Colored People would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.
Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?
Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.
Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Head Colored Person
As you can read, the letter was crafted to simulate a letter that was sent to President Lincoln during the Civil War from Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP. Once the story broke and his blog post ended up being reposted across cyberspace, Mr. Williams defended his letter, noting that it was merely meant to be satirical with no racist undertones. However, after the widespread release of the blog, the National Tea Party Federation, an umbrella group for the various factions of the Tea Party movement, denounced and expelled Mr. Williams noting that he represented only a “fringe” component of the movement.
Really, a “fringe” component of the movement? A “fringe” component that represented the Tea Party along with Sarah Palin on every media outlet from Fox News to CNN? It appeared to me prior to his blog going viral, Mr. Williams was pretty much a spokesperson for the Tea Party. Indeed, as Joan Vennochi notes on Boston.Com, “Williams wasn’t on the ‘fringe’ of this populist movement. He was the force behind a nationwide Tea Party bus tour that generated extensive media coverage because it featured Palin [and] when Palin visited Boston last April, Williams was chief crowd warmer-upper.”
Listen, the Tea Party racism problem is much larger and more pervasive than Tea Party leadership would like to admit. And as I mentioned a few months ago, that racism has begun to overshadow the party’s mantra and cloud its message. More importantly, as the racial sentiments in the group continue to grow the real question is should we continue to give them a pass? Or better yet, is it dangerous to continue to give them a pass? As I noted back in April, “as the number of hate groups and extremist organizations in the country continue to rise and as violence erupts in the wake of the health care vote, we need to ask ourselves if we can afford to provide these groups with more public opportunities to spread their hatred or more venues to recruit members.”
I would argue that we can no longer ignore the racism that is extremely evident in the Tea Party and that anti-tax Americans need to start looking for a new messenger to carry their water. Because the credibility of the Tea Party is waning as the racist mantra continues to overtake the anti-tax one.
But that is just me. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know what you think in the comment section.