As a student preparing for a career in journalism, I’ve been taught over and over again the importance of honesty and fairness in reporting. So for the sake of truly being “fair and balanced” I decided to Google “Tea Party movement racist” yesterday.
Sometimes the truth is more unsettling to the reporter than to the reader.
I found a number of images depicting signs with racist/ethnocentric phrases spray-painted on them. Evidently, Freedom Works and Glenn Beck have conveniently overlooked many of the events’ participants. Their reporting of The Tea Party movement and the 9-12 Project depict a sterilized version of what’s really going on at these protest — ignoring much of the racial “background noise” as Tim Wise, author of Between Barack and a Hard Place, puts it.
Now, you may be thinking: “All this racial baiting seems to be nothing more than dirty politics. It’s the age-old tactic of employing the ‘race-card’ to distract from the real issues of taxation and government spending.”
At least, that’s what I thought. Sometimes I really hate being wrong.
While many have attacked the Tea Party movement for its racial undertones, the real issue isn’t race — it’s a highbred of nationalism, ethnocentrism and racism.
Take, for example, the recent hysteria over “socialism” and “communism.” Let me first say that I do not support socialism or communism. I find them both fallacious and their view of human beings oppressive. But I do not fear socialism or communism — on the contrary, I see merit in many of their ideas.
But the constant employment of the blade and sickle and the finger pointing harkens back to the days of McCarthy and “red baiting.” Americans had a heightened sense of nationalism during and after World War II. The election of President Barack Obama seems to have brought to surface the nationalistic/ethnocentric attitudes of many Americans.
Take, for example, the “birther” movement. For sure, some of the birthers are racist individuals who don’t want a “Kenyan” in the White House. But the large majority are red-blooded Americans who don’t want their country to be taken over by a “foreigner.” They are nationalist who see America and American culture (e.i. capitalism, Christianity, etc.) as being threatened.
At first, I couldn’t imaging where all these tea partiers were during the bailout-Bush era. Now, I understand. The majority of these people didn’t see Bush as the threat that they see Barack Obama. After all, Bush was American; he was from Texas; he gave lip service to the ideals of capitalism and limited-government spending. But Barack — he’s just too different.
It’s sad to see the racist/ethnocentric/nationalistic tendencies of America boil to the surface. A movement that is seemingly empowering the people is at the same time oppressing them. My hope is that the ideas of liberty and limited government rise above the ignorance and prejudice that are clinging to them.