promoting the unwanted, redheaded stepchild that is individual liberty

The ugly side of a movement

In racism on September 28, 2009 at 1:59 am

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.

  1. Well Jessica, you found a site that has, what, ten pictures, a small percentage of which could be considered “racist”? There were by some estimates 200,000 people there. If we allow for twice as many “racist” signs as were pictured and go with 20, we’re now at 1/100 of a percent of people who attended possibly being racist. In other words, you’d need 100 times as many photos of signs to prove even one half of one percent of the attendees at this tea party were racist. Assuming those were there is one heck of an extrapolation.

    Are there racists in our society? Yes, as with any other society. Unfortunately they’ll always be there, as you just can’t fix stupid. But it’s the really being disingenuous to label an entire group of people because of the actions of less than one percent of that group. That would be a bit like saying all Democrats are Botox-fiend tax cheats like Pelosi and Rangel, or saying that all Jews are bankers with an abnormally large proboscis. In short, it’s using a stereotype to condemn people for using stereotypes. I’d be willing to bet there are a lot of racists who are all for socialism and the Obama policies, as well.

    Typically we see this racism charge throw out in an effort to end all debate on any topic. If one can demonize one’s opponent, then one no longer has to come up with a viable defense for one’s positions. The only reply has to be “well, yes, but my opponent is a racist”, and it’s over. The left has used that tactic for years with a great deal of success. I’m not at all surprised to see them attempt to use it again. But I’m proud to see many people standing up to that intimidation tactic this time. I’m a bit sorry to see that you seem to have been swayed by that cheap tactic, and would hope you’d look at this again with an unbiased eye. Just who really are the racists in this particular racism debate? Those arguing policy and their opposition to it, or those who see Barack Obama only as a black man, and therefore any disagreement of him as an attack on a black man? Who really is unwilling to see past race?

  2. The ugliness of the Tea Party comes from the economic and social extremism of the group: namely it’s over-emphases of personal liberty. What the Tea Party doesn’t seem to understand is that freedom requires balancing personal liberty and social equality. It does no good to pretend that one is more important than the other. Too much liberty or too little liberty destroys equality, and too much or too little equality destroys liberty. People in the Tea Party imagine that those who seek equality also seek complete equality to the point of destroying personal liberty. This interpretation, however, is a misreading and an overreaction because the goal is simply to find a good balance that promotes freedom, not destroy personal liberty.

    Just like it takes a suspension of personal liberty so that we may all have somewhat equal, safe use our roads, so regulating markets and maintaining some sort of social net for families allows people to have the somewhat equally safe access to the economic opportunities that make the nation strong. A lot of people lost their life savings and have been put in dire straights thanks to the recklessness of unregulated billionaires. The Tea Party’s plan is to let the drunks drive their Hummers until they all crash and burn and then there won’t be any drunks or Hummers left. But I don’t want to get hit by a Hummer driven by a drunk, and I don’t think it’s fair that innocent people, obeying the laws and driving compacts should be killed because the guys in Hummers want to drive drunk.

    We need a flexible, progressive, pragmatic society in order to ensure freedom. Ideological extremism, both economic and social, is a dead end.

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