The Tea Party and racism

Was struck by this letter in The State this morning:

Francee Levin (“State right to fly USC flag,” Monday), the NAACP and others who mischaracterize the Tea Party movement need to stop listening to the liberal media and maybe attend a Tea Party rally for themselves. I’ve attended several at the State House, and the group includes people from all ethnic groups and walks of life who cannot sit by and witness the destruction of our great country by the present administration.

The movement is made up of millions of everyday Americans who love their country and want to see it restored to what the Founding Fathers created, and never have been documented to have said or done anything racist or violent.

Violent? No, thank goodness. Not yet, anyway. But racist? Depends on what you mean.

When I was at the Tea Party rally where I shot the video of Sheri Few tearing into that “socialist” Anton Gunn, she went on a long tale about how far back to the foundation of the country her kinfolk go, and it was so much like a my-family-came-over-on-the-Mayflower speech, only with an anti-government political flavor, that it both bored me and made me feel a tad uncomfortable. You know, like “I’m a REAL American, and have the pedigree to prove it.” I’ll see if I caught any of that on video… And at that same rally there was also some vituperation toward illegal immigrants — which many of you will hasten to explain was because they’re illegal, not because they are brown people who speak Spanish.

So no — I haven’t heard anything from Tea Party speakers that sounded like anything like what Ben Tillman might have said in advocating lynching. So pat yourselves on the backs there, if you’re so inclined. But I’ve heard plenty of stuff along the lines of what nativists say when they have their party manners on.

And then there was this report that I saw today:

A day after leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, met to pass a resolution that condemns the Tea Party, a grass-roots anti-tax political movement, for tolerating racism among its members, CNN contributor Roland Martin invited a Tea Party Express spokesman onto The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer. Mark Williams, “asked to tell racists ‘you’re not welcome’ in the tea party,” the Huffington Post reported, “replied ‘Racists have their own movement. It’s called the NAACP.'” On the show, which aired Wednesday night, Williams accused Martin of driving racist people to Tea Party events by talking about the issue consistently on the air, by convincing them that Tea Party events are where they will “find a happy home.” “You’re not going to lie on CNN. I never said that,” Martin responded. “I have said consistently, the Tea Party people have an absolute right to assemble, to protest. But what I have said, there is no room in that movement for racists. And what I’ve said is, you should come out and say you’re not welcome here.” That’s when Williams broke in to call the NAACP a racist organization, adding that members are “a bunch of old fossils looking to make a buck off skin color.” “That’s nonsense,” Martin responded before Blitzer broke in to end the heated debate. The Huffington Post has video of the exchange on its Web site.

Make of that what you will.

11 thoughts on “The Tea Party and racism

  1. James Penn

    “a bunch of old fossils looking to make a buck off skin color.”
    “there is no room in that (which) movement for racists”

    Alfred Charles Sharpton Jr. … Sharpton and other civil rights leaders said Goetz’s actions were racist and requested a federal civil rights investigation. A federal investigation concluded the shooting was due to an attempted robbery and not race. … Yankel Rosenbaum, a visiting student from Australia, was stabbed and killed by a member of a mob shouting “Kill the Jew.” Sharpton marched through Crown Heights and in front of “770”, shortly after the riot, with about 400 protesters “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house” and referring to Jews as “diamond merchants.”[… Sharpton told the protesters, “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business.” … Sharpton was quoted as saying to an audience at Kean College in 1994 that, “White folks was [sic] in caves while we was building empires…. We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it” … Sharpton was accused of bigotry for comments he made about Romney on May 7, 2007 “As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways” … Attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason joined Sharpton in support of Brawley. A grand jury was convened; after seven months of examining police and medical records, the jury determined that Brawley had fabricated her story. Sharpton, Maddox, and Mason accused the Dutchess County prosecutor, Steven Pagones, of racism and of being one of the perpetrators of the alleged abduction and rape. The three were successfully sued for slander and ordered to pay $345,000 in damages, the jury finding Sharpton liable for making seven defamatory statements about Pagones, Maddox for two, and Mason for one. Sharpton refused to pay his share of the damages; it was later paid by a number of black business leaders … In 1991, Sharpton founded the National Action Network, According to the Post, several major corporations, including Anheuser-Busch and Colgate-Palmolive, have donated thousands of dollars to the National Action Network. The Post asserted that the donations were made to prevent boycotts or rallies by the National Action Network.

    Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. … Jackson used “Hymies” to mean Jews and “Hymietown” to mean New York City while talking with the Washington Post reporter Milton Coleman in January 1984 … Jackson transferred from University of Illinois to North Carolina A&T located in Greensboro, North Carolina … reasons behind this transfer … Jackson claims that the change was based on the school’s racial biases which included his being unable to play as a quarterback despite being a star quarterback at his high school. ESPN.com suggests that claims of racial discrimination on the football team may be exaggerated because Illinois’s starting quarterback that year was an African American … Jackson left Illinois at the end of his second semester after being placed on academic probation … In 1995, Jackson made headlines again when he wrote to the Fox network protesting an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in which one protagonist, the “White Ranger,” … March 2006, an African-American woman accused three white members of the Duke University men’s lacrosse team of raping her. During the ensuing controversy, Jackson stated that his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition would pay for the rest of her college tuition regardless of the outcome of the case. The case against the three men was later thrown out and the players were declared innocent by the North Carolina Attorney General …

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  2. bud

    Racism aside the Tea Party movement seems to lack any concrete ideas for what they want to do. Seems to me all they want to do is bitch and whine. Third party movements of the past at least had some focus. There was the temperance movement, anti-slavery movement that turned into the Republican party, women’s sufferage, civil rights, greens, and the anti-busing movement of George Wallace. Whether you supported any of those causes at least you’d have to admit they were focused. The Tea Partiers just seem like a bunch of mostly white whiners to me. After all what is a “common sense conservative”. Vague, very vague.

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  3. marconi

    I’m afraid the Tea Party has already managed to say things that are really pretty racist, Brad.

    Below is a mock letter written by Mark Williams of the Tea Party Express detailing what Ben Jealous (NAACP chair) would say to Lincoln if he had the chance.

    “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!… 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?”

    That’s pretty unambiguous don’t you think?

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  4. Kathryn Fenner

    @James Penn–your point, if I understand it, is that some black leaders are racist. How exactly does that absolve the Tea Party, or some of its adherents, of claims of racism?

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  5. JT

    Mr. Warthen, we realize that you are buddies with Mr. Gunn and will do or say anything to carry his water when his record and affiliations are challenged. But since when is showing pride of your family’s heritage being traced to the brave men and women who founded this nation racist? You are reaching too far there for a slam and most who read that criticism of Ms. Few will realize that.

    You have made comments about how moderate Mr.Gunn is, but as a conservative in his District, I was disheartened to learn of Mr. Gunn being the leader of the Obama Organizing For America for our State. We all know he helped to run then-Seantor Obama’s campaign, and many thought his liberalism was over after the election, and that he was going to change allegiances and become the moderate that he claims to be. Many of us, some who even voted for him, were disappointed to see Mr. Gunn take on the role with OFA after he was elected to the General Assembly. Many of us in this district, and again some who even voted for him, have been very disappointed by his dual political roles and ideologies, and wish that he would be who he says that he is. Mr. Gunn should not play one game in the SC Statehouse and another while he is working in DC with the President and their friends.

    I have attended several TEA parties and have yet to see anything questionable or hear anything racist. If you are going to make the charge of racism at a Statehouse TEA Party, then you need way better evidence than slamming Sheri Few for being proud of an ancestor who signed the Declaration of Independence.

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  6. George Still

    Mr. Worthen’s comments in this blog entry may reveal more about how beliefs and preconceptions can influence how a person sees an event than it does about the motives and intentions of the Tea Party.

    I have been to Tea Party events (including, I believe, the same events that Mr. Worthen says he attended and videoed) and found nothing at all in the tone or content to suggest racism. Opinion is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder, but Mr. Worthen’s blog entry does not purport to express opinion but actual experience based on actual political speech.

    Mr. Worthen makes an entirely gratuitous swipe at Sheri Few who spoke at the rally he says he attended and recorded. He claims that her comments reveal the latent racism of the movement, and by direct implication, of Ms. Few herself; but he fails to provide any evidence for his assertion in his blog. He makes generalized assertions about Ms. Few’s comments, and then assigns to them meaning that neither the speaker nor the audience would recognize or embrace.

    Mr. Worthen does say that he “will see if he caught any of that (racist speech)” in his video. Perhaps it would be good practice for a professional journalist of Mr. Worthen’s caliber to review his video first, and then to base his assertions from what exists in fact rather than what as of now appears to exist only in imperfect remembrance of a past event. And perhaps after reviewing the record, Mr. Worthen will find reason to correct the impression his blog might have given to Midlands voters who are now evaluating candidates to represent them this November.

    Perhaps in future blogs Mr. Worthen can explain what race is disparaged or demeaned by American Taxpayers of all colors, creeds, and races gathering together to express a desire for smaller, less-intrusive, constitutional and color-blind government.

    I believe Mr. Worthen will be the first to recognize the weight his words carry here in the Midlands and will want more than anyone to ensure his published comments are based on evidence.

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  7. Brad

    Looks like some Sheri Few supporters have heard about my blog post and volunteered to leave comments. Which is good.

    Not sure how I feel being lectured about the soundness of my journalistic practices by someone who in challenging me writes my name nine times and misspells it every single time, in spite of having the correct spelling right in front of him the whole time, but… welcome to the blog, folks.

    And yes, JT, different people will witness the same event and draw entirely different conclusions from it. And I would be VERY surprised if anyone who was there at the rally and applauding the speeches had been bothered in any way by Ms. Few’s ramblings about ancestors. The entire point I was making here was that the usual problem with the Tea Party is NOT something so overt as the race-baiting of Mark Williams. Usually it’s something that to ME smacks of racism, or at the very least nativism, but to the folks who attend those rallies, there’s not a thing wrong with it. And in fact most Tea Partiers would be quite indignant at my finding anything wrong with it.

    That’s why I wrote about being so depressed at that Nikki Haley/Sarah Palin event at the State House. It was just one problematic thing after another, but as I thought about how I could get the people there applauding to SEE what was wrong with it, I realized that I almost certainly could NOT. And that is really depressing to someone who has based a career upon clearly expressing political ideas. It causes one to feel despair over the chances for our country when we are THIS divided, and the various parties perceive reality so differently. For the deliberative process upon which representative democracy is based to work, it is essential that there be some consensus about what reality is. So situations that emphasize how far apart we are on perceiving the messages we are hearing is very distressing.

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  8. George still

    Yes, Mr. Warthen, I got the name wrong every time–that obviously renders every aspect of the comment moot. I confess I don’t read your material and you are lergely unknown to me. But I will try to learn from the error.

    Thanks.

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