Not Hard to Find Racism at the Tea Party

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on July 19, 2010

Alice wouldn’t have to look far to find racism at today’s Tea Parties. Though some tea party spokespeople insist there’s no racism except for a few extremists who are using the movement to recruit new members to their causes, even a cursory glimpse shows otherwise.

It’s what prompted the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) at its convention last week in Kansas City to adopt a resolution that asks Tea Party organizers to speak out against racism within their ranks.

Examples abound: there’s the Tea Party poster depicting President Obama as a witch doctor with the caption: “Obamacare: Coming soon to a clinic near you.” And the email sent out by Dale Robertson, a Houston party member, that included a photo of Obama dressed as a pimp in a zebra-striped fedora.

Then there’s the Council of Conservative Citizens, based in St. Louis, that stages its own tea parties. The group believes that blacks are “a retrograde species of humanity,” and that immigration by non-whites will create a “slimy brown mass of glop.” So much for the melting pot.

Just a few months ago, members of the Congressional Black Caucus were heckled outside the Capitol by Tea Party attendees who hurled the “n-word” at them. They also called Rep. Barney Frank, who is openly gay, a “faggot.” Obviously, they’re equal opportunity bigots.

Even David Duke, who once led the Ku Klux Klan, admits that most Tea Party attendees “oppose affirmative action and diversity, which are nothing more than programs of racist discrimination against white people.”

“Liberals think these are all poor, angry, working-class whites, but that’s not true,” says Leonard Zeskind, author of Blood and Politics, an exposé on the white nationalist movement. “It’s a solid middle class. The belief that these are people hit by the economic downturn is a myth. It’s people who have what they want, and don’t want it taken away. They’re defending white privilege. Their slogan is ‘We want our country back.’”

White privilege certainly comes through in the polls that have been done on the tea party crowd. Missing from a CNN survey were poor working-class folks; instead, educated and middle-class was the norm. In a New York Times/CBS poll, 52% of respondents said that our country makes too much of problems facing blacks.

“There are hard-core racists brewing inside the tea party movement,” said Zeskind, who helped write the NAACP resolution. “They see tea parties not only as recruitment opportunities, but as vehicles to cross over into mainstream American politics.”

“There definitely is racism within the tea party movement,” said Daryle Lamont Jenkins of One People’s Project, a Philadelphia-based group monitoring racism. “I’ve seen it, and it’s something they need to deal with now.”

In Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter held tea parties all day because, for him, time was stuck at 6:00 pm. Perhaps modern-day mad hatters have them because they’re stuck in the 50s.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for both an American Library Association and a Lambda Literary award. His website is

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