Promoting limited government, fiscal responsibility and free market principles, the tea party movement has garnered supporters and political influence across the country in the wake of the 2008 elections.
While their political beliefs may be debatable, members’ conviction in the movement’s beliefs is not. Therefore, it’s appropriate and even expected of them to practice their rights to organize and state their beliefs in an effort toward desired political reform – it’s the freedom of American politics.
However, the movement’s ideology and intentions are rightly coming under fire for some members’ persistent intolerance.
“After observing tea party activities throughout the country – which culminated with the outrageous and racist behavior of tea party activists during the historic congressional vote to pass into law comprehensive health care legislation – the NAACP began more closely investigating the tea party,” Hillary Shelton, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Washington bureau, said to CNN.
“Specifically, as it was reported to us that tea party activists spat on (Congressman) John Lewis, a veteran civil rights activist and associate to Dr. Martin Luther King, and called Congressman Emanuel Cleaver the ‘N-word’ and called (Congressman) Barney Frank … one of the first openly gay members of Congress, the ‘F-word,'”
The NAACP passed a resolution Tuesday at its 101st annual convention in Kansas City, Mo., that condemned the rampant racism in the tea party movement.
The NAACP may have a point. Racial protests have also poorly contributed to the tea party’s image.
With signs reading, “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery,” “Obama, what you talking about Willis?” in reference to the late black actor Gary Coleman and “Stand idle while some Kenyan tries to destroy America? WAP!! I don’t think so!!! Homey don’t play dat!!!” it’s no surprise that some believe that race is an important underlying issue to many supporters.
There are certainly members of the tea party movement who are not racist, but they will be overshadowed by those who openly spew incendiary rhetoric.
“This is not a racist movement. We don’t want you here. Go away if that’s what you’re about. We’re about the fiscal issues and being American,” said Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express on ABC’s “The View” in defense of the movement.
Tea party followers should heed these warning calls from those in their own group.
Continuing on the path of racial intolerance may relieve frustrations for some, but challenging contemporary racial tolerance will ultimately delegitimize the entire movement and its messages.
Otherwise, if vulgar acts of racism become a successful rallying cry for political unity, then the U.S. will have taken very dangerous steps backwards.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.