Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is the Tea Party movement "racist"?

Anyone who has ever been to a Tea Party demonstration has seen the various racist signs dotting the crowd. They certainly are not a majority of messages, but they are obvious; I've seen them live in Boston and on the local and national news.

Does that make the Tea Partiers racist?

I think it is important to remember the warning that the civil rights movement has given us: We are all capable -- and even likely -- to harbor some racist views. These can vary from out-and-out beliefs in the inferiority of some or all non-white people to hidden condescension based on the suspicion that maybe blacks are somewhat less smart, or more physically than cleverly athletic, or ... well, you know what I mean. The way to deal with this is to be constantly questioning our beliefs and actions, asking ourselves why we think and act in certain ways. Of course, it's not just "race" (a very difficult to define term), but also culture and religion. What do we really believe about, say, Catholics or Jews? Why? Only saints -- of which there may be none -- are free of prejudices, but we must strive, by careful scrutiny, to be as fair as possible.

Which brings me to the Tea Partiers. If ever there was a non-reflective, non-introspective movement, this is it. All is either bad-guys or good-guys for them. The folks in Washington, the "ins", are plotting with Big Government, to take away our rights and privileges. On the other hand, the "outs" who want to replace them will help us return to the "good old days" as Glenn Beck and others would have it. The Partiers supposedly hate the Big Business bullies at the banks; yet, they support deregulation of these very same banks and have, up and down the line, allied themselves with the very corporate interests that have been corrupting our government. The Tea Screamers are wildly condemning of affirmative action and any kind of healthcare reform associated with government -- the later position, of course, being exactly the position of Big Pharma and the big insurers who have been effectively rationing healthcare here for at least half a century. In other words, the Screamers are effectively taking the positions of the very oppressors they claim to be defying.

There is no way that a movement that is so superficial and so non-critically-believing of just about anything that pits "us" against "them", can fail to harbor racist positions. You can only stamp out racism by seeing it and hating it -- in all its big and little manifestations. The same goes for chauvinism -- of both the national and sexual kinds. The same goes for age-ism and all the other isms that prevent us from viewing and dealing with people as individuals.

So, while the Tea Partiers don't literally advocate racist positions, their no-nothingism and intellectual disconnects make them a fertile ground for some very bad beliefs -- racism being only one of them.

1 comment:

  1. I do think many of the Tea Partiers harbor thinly veiled racist tendencies. It's just much more acceptable to call Obama "Socialist" than what they really wish to call him. (It starts with the letter "N") Seeing a Black man in *their* White House irks them no end.

    I feel I'm qualified to say this having spent some time among the Tea Partiers--chatting them up and asking them what they think of President Obama. Some of their answers and beliefs curled my hair. I thought I was in the Deep South of the 1950s.