If the tea party isn’t racist, why warn against racist behavior?

A link to this WaPo piece by David Weigel came bumping along my twitter trail today.  “Five myths about the ‘tea party’” challenges the notion that “The tea party is racist”, saying

It’s a phenomenon that some activists call “nutpicking” — send a cameraman into a protest and he’ll focus on the craziest sign. Yes, there are racists in the tea party, and they make themselves known. But tea party activists usually root them out. …

Liberal critics of the tea party argue that conservative opposition to social spending is often racially motivated. That’s not new, though, and it’s not the basis for the tea party.

I was just mulling over the “logic” of how the purported economic basis for the tea party movement could somehow magically rule out an increased presence of racists when the following email arrived in my mailbox.  It’s from The Tea Party of Spokane (WA).  I’ll highlight the interesting part.

Subject: Tea Party ~ Obama coming to Seattle. Action Alert

Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2010

Bothered by Patty Murrays Policies!

Date: August 17, 2010

Time: 10:00am – 2:00pm

Westin Hotel, 1900 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, WA

President Obama is coming to Seattle to fund raise for Patty Murray and “the People” will be there to protest Patty’s re-election .Please remember this protest is against Patty and her economic policies so keep your signs related. Don’t give the media any reason to racially profile us. Do not engage hecklers, please ignore them.  Above all be safe! Take pictures and video of any trouble for evidence! …

For the sake of Liberty,

The Tea Party of Spokane

and Volunteers

Now David Weigel might respond by saying “see, they’re weeding out the racists among them!”.  But I’m not so sure it’s that simple.  I think that if you have to remind your whole membership not to carry signs that are racist, it’s a tacit admission that there’s plenty of racist propensity in the ranks.  I’m not saying that all tea partiers are racist, but what I have seen of the local t.p. tells me that the economic complaints are partly genuine, partly a proxy reason to rail away at the black man who has usurped the Office of President.  But that’s just my take on the local manifestations of the party.  Maybe it’s all interracial brotherhood where you are.  You know, those local tea party groups whose black, Latino and Asian membership equals or exceeds the population percentage?  Yeah.  Right.

A reality check from Think Progress is after the fold.
Unlike Mr. Weigel and myself, who are relying on opinion or personal non-randomized observation, several research groups have gone out and methodically polled tp-ers.  Think Progress gives us a synopsis of the results.

National surveys of the Tea Party have found that explicit racist sentiment is a strong component of the tea-party make up, in addition to economic conservatism and strong Republican partisanship. The April, 2010 New York Times/CBS News national survey of Tea Party supporters found that they are:
  • More than twice as likely as the general public (25% vs 11%) to believe that “the policies of the Obama administration favor blacks over whites.”
  • Half as likely as the general public (16% to 31%) to believe that “white people have a better chance of getting ahead in today’s society.”
  • Almost twice as likely as the general public (52% to 28%) to believe that “too much has been made of the problems facing black people” in recent years.

  • In a broad study of adults in Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and California conducted between February and March, the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Sexuality (WISER) asked a number of questions about “racial resentment” – such as whether blacks don’t try hard enough or have gotten more than they deserve. Conservatives are 23 percent more likely to be racially resentful, and Republicans 15 percent more likely than Democrats. However, the institute found that this racial sentiment isn’t simply a byproduct of white conservativism:

    [E]ven as we account for conservatism and partisanship, support for the Tea Party remains a valid predictor of racial resentment.

    It is untrue, as political commentator Dave Weigel argues, that racism in the Tea Party is merely reflective of its conservatism. The WISER study found that compared to other conservatives, Tea Party supporters are:

  • 25 percent more likely to have racial resentment.
  • 27 percent more likely to support racial profiling.
  • 28 percent more likely to support indefinite detention without charges.

  • Tea Party supporters are also significantly more likely to hold racial stereotypes, with a majority believing blacks are not hard-working, intelligent, or trustworthy.

    But there is a silver lining on this dark cloud.  The tp-ers have finally transcended the old American black-white dichotomy!  ”Their fear of others transcends race, however – the WISER study found that a majority of tea party adherents distrust Latinos, Asians, and other whites as well.”  This is progress, right?  Right?  Oh.
    Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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