Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tea Party "Refudiates" Claims of Racism

Last week the NAACP publicly condemned the National Tea Party for racist elements within the party. Tea Party supporters repudiated the claim by suggesting that although racist individuals may exist within the party, they do not represent the party's platform in any way. However the NAACP argues that the party does not do enough to ostracize those who are motivated by and publicly display their racism.

We've all seen the signs with pictures of President Obama donning a Hitler-esque mustache alongside Hitler and Stalin. And we've also seen the signs accusing Obama of being a Muslim, and have heard the racial slurs being hurled at immigrant Mexicans and African Americans alike. All of this mixed in with Confederate flags and threats of violence (signs that read "We came unarmed... THIS TIME) makes for a very unsettling scene. These images and video clips don't help the Tea Party's cause, whatever that may be.

So then why haven't Tea Party leaders come out in strong condemnation of the racist trends within their movement? Why haven't the racists in the movement been kicked out, or at least shoved out of the camera's eye?

Well, according to a study conducted by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Sexuality... it's seems that if they did, their party would cease to exist.

The study found that members of the movement are more likely than the general population to feel racial resentment, have negative opinions of immigrants, and believe that President Obama favors black people over white people. When asked sensitive questions such as "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites" Tea Party respondents overwhelmingly agreed with the statement, 73% to be exact, whereas only 33% the general public agreed with the statement. The study also found that Tea Partiers are whiter, older, wealthier, and more educated than most.

Another issue with leadership condemning racist elements within the party is that the Leadership is just as racist as the Tea Party masses, albeit not always quite so overtly. In fact, the leaders are usually the ones fueling the fire of hatred.

Take for example Tom Tancredo’s opening speech at the Tea Party’s national convention earlier this year when he said that President “Barack Hussein Obama” was elected president because “we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country.” Tancredo apparently thinks we should go back to operating things pre-Voting Rights Act of 1965, back to the Jim Crowe south.

But we don’t have to go that far back to find examples of racism in the movement’s leadership. Just a couple of months ago Mark Williams officially outed himself as a certified Islamophobe when he spoke out against the proposed “ground zero mosque” on the grounds that it would become a shrine to the worship of the terrorists’ monkey God; where Muslims would propagandize for the extermination of all things not approved by their cult."

And of course just this week Sarah Palin jumped on the bigoted bandwagon calling upon “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the Cordoba Initiative. As if to imply that Muslims can only be broken down into two groups, peaceful or violent, and that those who support the mosque are antagonistic and probably not the peaceful kind. She also mentioned that the Islamic Center is a stab in the heart to people across the heartland. I have to bring this up again… don’t you think all of this racism and hatred stabs the hearts of the Muslim 9-11 survivors and families of the Muslims killed in the Twin Towers on 9-11?

I guess there was some merit to the NAACP’s claims after all. The Tea Party Federation ousted Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express finally on Monday for his racist blog response to the NAACP condemnation. After getting the boot, Williams argued that there is no such thing as a Tea Party leader, and that all members of the movement are leaders.

The Tea Party more or less admitted their racism with Williams’ forced exit; Williams revealed that the movement really isn’t much more than a gathering of bigots with no organizational structure or platform with his response.

It’s not just liberals who are attacking the movement; conservatives too sense that something isn’t right. Bob Inglis, a six term Republican Congressman who's on his way out in a recent interview with the AP expressed fear that his party may be taken over by extremists, referring to the Tea Party. He said “significant portions of the Republican coalition believe that it is a desirable strategy to talk of armed revolution, embrace libertarian purity and alienate Hispanic voters. With a major Republican victory in November, those who hold these views may well be elevated in profile and influence. And this could create durable, destructive perceptions of the Republican Party that would take decades to change.”

I guess there is still the possibility that the Tea Party just gets bad press. Maybe they’re not racist. But more importantly we should be asking, what does this movement inspire? If it’s not about racism, what is it about? The Democratic Party inspires people to fight for justice, equality, and civil rights. The Republican Party inspires family values, and a hard work ethic. What does the Tea Party truly inspire other than hollow talking points and clever slogans?


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