Racism and the Tea Partiers

Posted: April 10, 2010 in Latino Politics, U.S. Politics
Tags: ,

It’s funny how racism always seems to have a peculiar taint in the U.S.  A recent survey shows that members of the Tea Party movement appear to have more racist attitudes than non-members.  The news reports and commentary on this finding of racism among Tea Partiers, however, seem to focus only on their attitudes towards African Americans.  Missing from the discussion on this poll is the fact that it also included data on Tea Party attitudes towards Latinos.  One Newsweek Blog reports for instance, “Only 35 percent of those who strongly approve of the tea party agreed that blacks are hardworking, compared with 55 percent of those who strongly disapprove of the tea party.”  That blog entry states later that the poll “found similar margins on questions regarding Latinos.”  But there was no discussion of those findings, which are as important for U.S. politics as those on African Americans.  As the table of findings shows below, Tea Party members were as racist towards Latinos as they are towards African Americans.  In fact, though both members and non-members of the Tea Party movement found Latinos to be more hard working than African Americans, both groups consider Latinos to be less intelligent.  More importantly, since so many Tea Party members are also unemployed, it is important that 59% of Tea Partiers believe that immigrants take jobs away “from people here.”  Also important is that 45% of Tea Party members believe that “All undocumented immigrants in the U.S. should be deported immediately.”

All of this suggests that the Tea Party movement is likely to have a large negative influence on the next likely major policy objective of the Obama administration – immigration reform.  It’s time we start looking at the unstated goals inside the politics of resentment that is the Tea Party movement.  If recent incidents are any indication, there is evidence that white resentment against Latinos can be just as vicious and violent as it is already against African Americans.  There is the recent case of a Puerto Rican businessman who was told to leave a restaurant in Kissimmee, Florida because he was Latino.  Latino Congressman Ciro Rodriguez of Texas was also harassed by Tea Party members and called a “wetback” because he voted for the health care reform bill.  He was also told to “go back to Mexico.”  Then, there are the many growing incidents of violence against Latinos.  In one recent court case, several white and mixed race teenagers are accused of killing an Ecuadorian man, in Long Island, New York.  They killed the man as a culmination of a night in which they attacked several Latinos for fun.  This was not the first time they, and others like them, had engaged in this violent sport they called “Mexican Hopping.”

These are not just unsubstantiated correlations.  The political platform launched by the first Tea Party convention in Nashville in February 2010 was very clear about their target.  Here are some of the major preoccupations expressed in their chants and signs:

  • “President Obama wants to turn the country into a third world country.”
  • “Immigrants are taking over the United States, they must be sent to where they came from”
  • “This is our nation and we should take it back”
  • “Make English America’s official language”
  • “Congress loves Illegals”

When the Tea Partiers talk about “taking the country back,” they are not just talking about reversing the growth of big government and economic policies like the bank bailout.  They seem to want a return to a fictional past where there are no Latinos as well as African Americans.  Only a few Latino groups, like the Facebook based Cuéntame, are aware of this looming threat and acting to counter this nativist and racist goal.  Latinos and others need to wake up to what comes at the end of this new Tea Party.

  1. Bodhi says:

    As a member of the Tea Party & having attended a function of theirs, I can tell you that this article & the author couldn’t be more wrong about what he is stating. There is nothing racist about the Tea Party that I’ve ever seen & I wouldn’t stand for it if it did. I’m sort of wondering if he gets it wrong on purpose just to try & smear a legitimate point of view that the Tea Party has, which is our government needs to follow the Constitution….that’s it, nothing insidious or sinister. We simply believe that the spending that this Congress & President is incurring on the national debt is astronomical, unconstitutional & at the very least harmful.

    When members of the Tea Party say they want to “take back” their country, it has nothing to do with race….nothing at all & I’m perplexed how one could find that meaning in such a simple statement. What they mean is they want to take the country back from the leaders that are steering our beloved nation into oblivion with nationalized health care that has no funding, nationalized portions of the private sector (health, banking & parts of manufacturing) with taxpayer funds & questionable economic decisions based more on Socialism than Capitalism.

    The rally I attended had at least half of the speakers were minorities, including a youth pastor from Waco, TX who was Hispanic & called himself “Politik”. Politik gave a quick account of how he arrived in the Tea Party & then proceeded to rap about the movement…the crowd was so racist he had elderly white men swaying & grooving to his rapping & music. He was so motivational that old white folks were getting their groove on to this young Hispanic kid’s music & was widely applauded when he was finished.

    There is no coordinated effort within the Tea Party movement to engender racism…period. I reject any author’s claims of racism. I don’t doubt that lone wing-nuts exist, but the left has them too (enter ELF & Code Pink) & a movement’s agenda can’t be determined by the fringe.

    I hope this helps.


  2. jibarosoy says:

    The problem with the Tea Party and supporters like Bodhi is that they insist on “taking back the country” to some fictive golden age of liberty that has never existed, especially for most minorities, women, or even white males without property. The smaller government they cherished may have existed in the past. But it existed because there was no safety net for those without wealth, no protections from predatory corporations, and institutionalized slavery and discrimination. I, and most Latinos and minorities, are not willing to go back to that. Take a look at this article from a conservative member of the Cato Institute who recognizes the validity of my argument: http://reason.com/archives/2010/04/06/up-from-slavery

  3. Bodhi says:

    I don’t hold to any Golden Age….”take back” isn’t synonymous a period of time necessarily, rather I view that sentiment as a call to get to a mindset where we looked to our Constitution for governance.

    Make no mistake my family was/is poor & there was no Golden Age for us…but the lack of liberty is a fate worse than the supposed security that the Obama administration is promising. The two concepts are diametrically opposed, security & freedom & I (& most of my family) view the Constitution as a document that limits government, sets boundaries & ensures freedom because the Founding Fathers were desperately trying to escape the “security” of the English monarchy. The Tea Party doesn’t have any illusions of a Golden Age where everything was unicorns, sunshine & lollipops, but they do have any idea of what the government should look like & just how much freedom should be given up for the security promised by its government.

    There is no racial component in their agenda. There is a freedom component though. I would rather be poor & free than secure but shackled by the government. That sentiment is echoed all throughout the Tea Party…it has absolutely nothing to do with race.

    Listen, the amount of freedom a person is willing to give up for security is a very personal choice & I’ve met my threshold. Before the health care debacle I was standing on the sidelines but I can not go quietly any longer.

    This country can still strive for the values listed in the Constitution & be a better place for everyone at the same time. This isn’t an either/or scenario, where we can either have freedom & racism OR security & equality. No, that’s a false dichotomy that isn’t valid in this situation because we can have both freedom & security without racism & servitude. We should recognize our mistakes, acknowledge them & learn from them & do better when our chance comes. Racism is despicable & we shouldn’t forget how it shaped our country, we should learn from the mistakes of our ancestors & make this place better for our kids. My great-great-grandmother never left their property for fear of her life, because at the time in my part of the country there were far worse things than being black or Latino…namely being Indian (Cherokee). That discrimination happened over a century ago & I still remember my grandfather telling me as a little boy how secluded his grandmother was because she was afraid…it left a deep impression on him & consequently me as well. Time has healed most of those wounds but they’re still there of course.

    If the Tea Party’s racism is blatantly obvious then we wouldn’t have middle school teachers in Oregon trying to infiltrate TP events dressed in Nazi regalia…he shouldn’t have to do that as it would be plain for all to see without those types of shenanigans. I could care less what race our leaderships takes, but I do care immensely what direction they guide us in & that’s why I joined the Tea Party. My inner circle of friends & relatives span all over the place in race & religion…it isn’t an issue…but freedom is.

    Again, I hope my comments are helpful because if you’re honestly confused about what the Tea Party & folks like me stand for then maybe this will help? It is OK to disagree with us & I have no problems with that & at a minimum maybe I can help shed some light on our viewpoints. You may have a better idea of our ideology & still disagree with it & that’s fine….it’s America brother & that’s the sort of freedom I’m talking about. On the other hand if you’re trying to dismiss a legitimate point of view because you don’t like it…well, that’s unabashedly un-American. I see hints of that from time to time & I don’t like it. Honorable people can can have honest disagreements without demonizing one another.

    “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” – Benjamin Franklin

    “And I’m saying that men can live together without butchering one another. … ” – Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood)

  4. jibarosoy says:

    Bodhi, I like you and respect you. You seem sincere and intelligent. But you have to read me more carefully. I didn’t pull the idea that the Tea Partiers may harbor racist goals out of thin air. My article was a review of a survey research conducted by Chris Parker of the University of Washington. It was also less about the survey and more of a commentary about how the media treated that study. The media focussed only on the data that pertained to African Americans. It ignored the data in that study on Latinos. But why did you ignore that data?
    I do my best to try to understand all positions. But your position seems to be to offer blanket denial to any idea that Tea Partiers may be racist. You offer nothing more substantial than your own conscience and experience. That’s not good enough. Just the other day, another survey research report offered further confirmation that there is evidence of racism in Tea Party members. See the New York Times report, “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated” at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/15/us/politics/15poll.html?scp=2&sq=tea%20party&st=cse.

    Pay careful attention to the data. 52 percent of Tea Party members compared to only 28 percent of all poll respondents believe that “too much been made of the problems facing black people.” That finding suggests, to me, that people in this group have some resentments against black people. Resentments like these have a tendency of being just a hair breath away from becoming full racist positions about excluding, punishing, or eliminating those (blacks) for whom too much is being done. These members don’t have to articulate this more full blown racism for the threat to exist or for me to warn that it may be in the offering.
    BTW, this New York Times survey also suffers from the same malady I complained about in my article. It asked questions about blacks and not about Latinos. I rest my case.

  5. Suburban Survivalist says:

    But your position seems to be to offer blanket denial to any idea that Tea Partiers may be racist. You offer nothing more substantial than your own conscience and experience. That’s not good enough.


    Perhaps you should follow the link under your post (Possibly related posts) to the Gallup poll data, which seems to be in contention with the reporting you choose to accept.

    I also suggest you go to a Tea Party event yourself and get some first-hand data and experience. Unless you have some and aren’t claiming it (highly unlikely) you have absolutely no experience whatsoever at Tea Pary events so must go on second-hand reporting. Yet you ignore first-hand reporting that does not agree with your preconceived notions. Telling.

    Bodhi directly explained what “take back” means to Tea Party members (I’m not one), yet you also seem to completely dismiss that in favor of what you want to believe. It’s been a few years since grad school for me, but taking one report and ignoring other reasonable data is bad research, which you should be well aware of as a prof.

    If I took a comments from some Democrats speaking about the need, for example, to redistribute wealth in the U.S., and said therefore Democrats in America are Socialists, it would not fly. Just like taking comments from some people who are (or claim to be) Tea Party members making comments on race, etc.

    A fraction of Tea Party members (and Republicans, and Democrats, etc.) are probably racists who what the fictional Golden Age you refer to. The vast majority are not. Just like a fraction of Democrats are indeed Socialists and the rest are not.

    Yet you throw around the racist label with abandon. That’s pretty irresponsible, especially considering the weak support for it and ignoring contrary information.

  6. […] The busiest day of the year was April 11th with 82 views. The most popular post that day was Racism and the Tea Partiers. […]

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