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Whither Racism?

In the criticisms of the Tea Party movement, like much of the defense of President Obama from criticism of him and his policies, the charge of "racism" is leading the charge. This has intrigued me, as there is absolutely nothing racist about the movement's stated goals or positions, membership requirements, or demands. Yet it's the most common allegation (besides, of course, "stupid" and sexual slurs).

Why?

I see two explanations, explanations that are not only non-exclusive, but complementary.

The first is that "racism" is an easy charge to make. For most of recent history, since "racism" became universally accepted as A Bad Thing, charges of racism hasn't had much of a burden of proof. On the contrary -- most of the time the accused is immediately presumed guilty until they "prove" themselves innocent, a ridiculously impossible standard. It's the big gun of accusations, and immediately changes the discussion from the accused's position, to the accused's character. And if the argument ends with one side being discredited, then the other side tends to win by default.

So, if the Tea Party critics can hang the "racist" noose around the Party's necks, then they figure they have won. After all, who's going to take a bunch of racists seriously?

The second explanation is that the Tea Party's critics believe that a fight over race is one they can win. They are used to winning whenever race is a key part of an argument, so they think that if they can make public perception of the Tea Party movement into a racist group, then they will win.

There are a few corollaries from this explanation that are also interesting. The first is that, by having to fabricate a line of attack against the Tea Parties, they are tacitly admitting that the actual positions of the Tea Party movement are difficult to argue against. Boiled down to essentials, the Tea Party's manifesto is simple: they want a federal government that plays a smaller role in domestic affairs. They want a smaller federal government, with a corresponding reduction in power and budget.

So that's why the critics of the Tea Party movement end up looking for "racism" the way astronomers look for black holes: they can't find it directly, so they have to find circumstantial evidence to back it up.

The only problem is, astrophysicists actually do find black holes. The Tea Party critics end up looking like the villagers in Monty Python and the Holy Grail trying to identify a witch.

"The crowds are mostly white!" Well, yeah, white people are the largest segment of the population. And look at the Democrats in Congress -- they're mostly white, too. Or MSNBC's hosts, for that matter.

"They're against Obama because he's black!" The fact that he's overseen the most liberal agenda presented in history since the New Deal, overseen a skyrocketing debt, high unemployment, and a vast expansion of government power doesn't matter -- most Americans would be fine with those if they were presented by yet another white guy.

"They use racist code words!" Remarkable how quickly things become "code words" once it becomes convenient for people to deem them such. For example, to me, a noose was a symbol of frontier justice, of Old West style vigilantism against outlaws. It's only in the more recent past that the noose shook off those associations and became a symbol of racial oppression.

The problem with the strategy, though, is that it's old. It's worn out. As their hero, Saul Alinsky, noted, ""A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag." People no longer react Pavlovianly when they hear the accusation. Indeed, it's become a point of mockery and, even in some corners, a point of pride.

So, why do they keep tossing around the "racist" accusation? For that answer, we turn to Richard Gere's character in "An Officer And A Gentleman:" "Don't you do it! Don't! You... I got nowhere else to go! I got nowhere else to g... I got nothin' else."

They got nowhere else to go. They got nothin' else.


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Comments (44)

When I hear the 'racist' ch... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

When I hear the 'racist' charge, I reply with one of my own. "So does that justify your pedophilia?" Silence usually follows.

Garand, not nice. ... (Below threshold)

Garand, not nice.

Not nice at all.

But damn, what a way to make your point.

I might steal that one...

J.

Yes, it is a baseless charg... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Yes, it is a baseless charge that allows them to avoid the nasty business of actually defending their positions. It relieves them of the necessity of thinking about why what they are doing isn't a disaster.

The problem as many have pointed out is that it has lost its sting. With the ubiquity of video cameras it is now easy to say "Prove it" to charges of racism. Just as with Cleaver's charges of being called racist epithets. You know that his staff combed through hours of video looking for just one example and they came up empty or we would have been treated to that around the clock on CNN and MSNBC.

Many people no longer are bothered by being called a racist and do not bother to defend themselves against the charge but push back. No longer are people accepting that they must prove their innocence.

Even with the complicity of the MSM they may have been able to keep the meme going, but it has never gained any traction.

"It's the big gun of accusa... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"It's the big gun of accusations, and immediately changes the discussion from the accused's position, to the accused's character. "

It's also an almost only one-way street.
Mostly it's only one 'special' race (with the occasional 'other' minorities) who get to accuse one particular race, and get results.
The aforementioned 'one particular race' does not get to accuse....well, ANYONE of racism.

It's only a big gun because the Left and the MSM get to use it against the Right and/or against the 'one particular' race. If it was fairly applied, it wouldn't be such a big gun.

I guess it won't matter much longer. Minorities in the U.S. are becoming not so minority as time goes on. And a growing number of 'one particulars' just don't give a f*ck about being called RAAAAACIST.

There are several problems ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

There are several problems with your analysis, Mr Tea.

One is the claim that critics are making the "racism" charge because they can't refute the Tea Party's "manifesto" in which are embodied its "actual positions." There is no manifesto, and nobody knows what its "actual positions" are. Even if one concedes, for the sake of argument, that many if not most attend these events in protest of Big Government, that doesn't explain the Birthers, paranoids, and whackjobs that wave signs and give interviews there.

Then you deny the existence of "code words." Do you imagine that there are no such things? Look up the history of phrases such as "law and order", "states rights", "racial quotas", etc as they've been employed the last 50 or 60 years and get back to me.

The fact that you were ignorant of the fact that a noose was a symbol of Jim Crow racism does not mean that a noose was NOT a symbol of Jim Crow racism. It only means that you were ignorant of that fact.

I don't know about other people's criticisms of Tea Partiers, but my problem is not so much with their alleged racism as with their evident ignorance, even though, of the 18% of Americans who say they "support" the Tea Party, 89% ARE WHITE, 59% are male, and 75% are Republicans over 45.

No, it's when they claim they are fighting higher taxes while 52% admit that their own income taxes this year are "fair." It's when they say they want smaller government, but no cuts in our two biggest programs, SS and Medicare, and an INCREASE in the defense budget. How in the hell can the budget be cut without reductions in those? Like I said, ignorant, stupid, and hypocritical.

You missed an important rea... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

You missed an important reason the left will continue to call us racists. The left's most vicious thugs have been conditioned to react with violence against those their leadership deems to be racist. "Racist" is one of the left's code words that means not fully human. The left has to continuously dehumanize us so that violence against us will be seen by those on the left as a natural response to the unbearable provocation of our mere existence. "Racists" must be prevented from speaking by any means necessary.

"Racist" is the code word that means "target".

I don't know about other... (Below threshold)

I don't know about other people's criticisms of Tea Partiers, but my problem is not so much with their alleged racism as with their evident ignorance, even though, of the 18% of Americans who say they "support" the Tea Party, 89% ARE WHITE, 59% are male, and 75% are Republicans over 45.

A majority doesn't make something automatically right or wrong. Unless, of course, you're a mindless automaton who by default always thinks whatever the majority does is all right with them. Or, alternately, that the majority is always wrong.

No, it's when they claim they are fighting higher taxes while 52% admit that their own income taxes this year are "fair."

How DARE these assholes look beyond their own personal self-interest?

It's when they say they want smaller government, but no cuts in our two biggest programs, SS and Medicare, and an INCREASE in the defense budget. How in the hell can the budget be cut without reductions in those?

Defense is a legitimate function of the federal government. And with Obama's foreign policy -- "be nice to our enemies and piss off our friends" -- we're going to end up with more enemies than ever.

SS is supposed to be in fine shape -- that's what your side has been saying for years, every time the Republicans wanted to reform it and make it more self-sustaining.

There's a ton of places where spending can be cut. As the old saying goes, "a billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

We gotta start somewhere.

J.

kirtz1's point @6 is key. T... (Below threshold)
davidt:

kirtz1's point @6 is key. The accusation "Racist!" justifies violence.

I think I know what the Tea... (Below threshold)

I think I know what the Tea Party's biggest problem is, in Bruce's eyes.

It isn't that they are racists.

It's that they simply don't care about race as much as Bruce thinks they should. That they don't obsess on identity politics as much as they should. That they don't see everything through a racial prism like they should.

That's another factor, now that I think about it. They're trying to redefine the whole Tea Party's agenda on their terms, to distract them from their own concerns and address issues that the Party simply doesn't care about. It's the Alinsky rules: "never go outside the expertise of your own people" and "whenever possible, go outside the expertise of your enemy."

Damn, Bruce, thanks! I might have to go back and update the original article, or write a whole new update.

The next time someone asks why I haven't banned you, I'm going to point them to this thread and show that you do, indeed, serve a useful purpose.

J.

The Tea Partiers insist tha... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

The Tea Partiers insist that they represent the vast majority of Americans. If their own taxes are fair, and they are the vast majority, does it not follow that the vast majority of Americans are paying a fair share of taxes? Yet they are protesting high taxes. See my point now?

And don't kid yourself. The very idea of conservatism boils down to "I got mine, so screw you if you have trouble getting yours." So pardon me if I don't think the Tea Party "patriots" are looking beyond their own personal self interest.

"It's that they simply don'... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

"It's that they simply don't care about race as much as Bruce thinks they should."

Really?

How does that follow from anything I have said - either here or on any other thread?

It seems you have adopted the Drummond-Mallow model of arguing with what you WISH a commenter had written rather than what he actually did write.

And what's with the threat of banning? Not afraid of poor pathetic liberal Bruce Henry, are we, Mr Tea?

Hey Brucie, come back and t... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Hey Brucie, come back and talk after your Obamassiah imposes a VAT tax.

Hey Garand Fanny, come back... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Hey Garand Fanny, come back and talk after a Democrat introduces a bill in Congress to impose one.

The very idea o... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

The very idea of conservatism boils down to "I got mine, so screw you if you have trouble getting yours."

It seems you have adopted the model of arguing with what you WISH a commenter had written rather than what he actually did write.

Need I say more?

Racist and racism have beco... (Below threshold)

Racist and racism have become nothing more than handy-dandy pejoratives used by lazy or intellectually challenged hatemongers to attack people with whom they disagree. I find the terms as offensive as many claim the "N" word to be. I don't believe in banning words, but if the "N" word is to be banned, so should those "R" words.

The very idea of conserv... (Below threshold)

The very idea of conservatism boils down to "I got mine, so screw you if you have trouble getting yours."

And the basic tenet of modern liberalism is "someone's got more than you, so we're going to take from him and give to you." Never noticing that 1) the people making the promise also have a hell of a lot more, and B) they never end up having their wealth confiscated in the name of "fairness."

And an explicit promise to NOT ban you is a threat now, Bruce? A very clear expression of gratitude and appreciation for doing precisely what you do so consistently is a veiled threat for you to stop it?

Dream on, you paranoid dolt.

But please keep commenting. You really do serve a valuable purpose here, and I'd personally be diminished in your absence. I am at my best as a "reactive" thinker, and you help me crystallize my thoughts exceptionally well.

J.

You KIND OF got me, Mr Kirt... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

You KIND OF got me, Mr Kirtz.

The difference is I was generalizing for effect. What Mr Tea was doing is called "putting words in my mouth." See, he is implying that I, personally, said something to demonstrate his point, when such is not the case. I, on the other hand, was vastly (over)simplifying and exaggerating the conservative "argument" to boil it down to its essence, as I see it.

See the difference, Mr Kirtz? No, don't answer that. Of course you('ll pretend that you) don't.

My apologies for my paranoi... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

My apologies for my paranoia, Mr Tea.

It's just that, prior to your return from Commentary, the authors here all claimed that they, themselves, had no power to ban people. It was all up to Maggie, supposedly. (Whom, BTW, we haven't heard from since.)

Since you've been back, I have noticed you talking about banning this guy or that guy who pissed you off. I also noticed that Mr Green is no longer around.

So, any mention of your power to ban I took as a threat. Again, pardon my paranoia.

Bruce, the one person I can... (Below threshold)

Bruce, the one person I can recall banning since my return keeps popping back up, and I have to re-ban him again. But from my first stint, I stand proudly behind my banning record -- every single time I used that authority (and it was quite limited), it was more than called for.

Just between you and me, I suspect my colleagues are empowered in banning commenters -- but don't know how. It's a fairly simple process, but not overly intuitive. I had to be shown how to do it at least twice.

Every now and then, though, a reader will call for a commenter to be banned. I think I recall that happening regarding you once or twice, so my remark was a pre-emptive answer to them: ain't gonna happen unless you really, really work at it -- and right now you do more good for me than about a dozen of those who routinely support me.

Don't mistake that as an endorsement, or a statement that I agree with you or even like you. I'm kind of like an oyster -- I need the "irritation" folks like you provide to come up with some of my best stuff, like an oyster needs a grain of sand to form a pearl around.

J.

I understand you quite well... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

I understand you quite well, Mr. Henry. You have one standard for yourself and another for Jay Tea. I understand you so well I am not at all surprised you won't admit to any hypocrisy.

I used to be a Democrat, Mr Henry. I really hate that people like you have made the Democratic Party stand for a racial spoils system instead of tolerance and liberty.

Got it, Mr Tea.Hap... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Got it, Mr Tea.

Happy to help.

So I guess putting words in my mouth constitutes some of your "best stuff?"

You don't do "nuance," do y... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

You don't do "nuance," do you, Mr Kirtz.

See, I had no problem with Mr Tea's direct response to my comment: "And the basic tenet of modern liberalism is 'Someone's got more than you, so we're going to take from him and give to you.'"

Why didn't I have a problem with that remark? Because it was the same kind of remark I had just made, an exaggerated generalization for effect.

Quite different from claiming he knew what I personally thought was wrong with Tea Partiers, a claim for which he had NO basis, because I never said anything of the sort.

NOW do you see the difference? Jesus.

A couple of things Bruce:</... (Below threshold)
jim m:

A couple of things Bruce:

1: despite there being no manifesto per se, leftists call the Tea Party racist because they are trying to discredit the movement. You're just being thick to ignore this fact.

Yes there were code words once upon a time. Context means something however. You could justifiably talk about 'state's rights' being code for segregation 50 years ago when that was actually being used to defend racist segregation laws. Today people are using the term to talk about states having the right to regulate their own internal commerce. There is a difference. It may be too subtle for you to perceive, but there it is.

The noose may have been a racist symbol but today it has been used almost exclusively by the left for the express purpose of fomenting racial angst and unrest and wringing concessions from institutions. Please look up the Columbia and UCSD incidents. Both were cases where black liberals hung a noose in order to create the appearance of racism so hey could tip public sympathy and discourse in their favor.

As for Tea Parties being racist I think it would do a lot of people good to realize hat this nation is not and never has been 50% black. Yes some of out major urban areas have a lot of minorities and some like Chicago run about 48% minority. However, nationally, blacks remain only 12% of the population. While that remains more than what MSNBC employs it is not that far off from what you actually may see at Tea Party events. In fact Bruce your own statistic supports that fact and you are once again full of BS.

If you're going to swear Mr... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

If you're going to swear Mr. Henry, you should use your own religion.

Try something like

BY OBAMA'S OMNIPOTENT TELEPROMPTER, I DAMN THEE TO THE NETHERMOST BOWELS OF THE BUREAUCRACY, KLRTZ1!

and see how that feels.

Racism -- the real thing, I... (Below threshold)
faxhorn:

Racism -- the real thing, I mean -- is pretty much over and done.

What the lefties have trotted out now is fake, best thought of as Ray-Sizzum.

bh - "18% of Americans ... (Below threshold)
Marc:

bh - "18% of Americans who say they "support" the Tea Party, 89% ARE WHITE, 59% are male, and 75% are Republicans over 45."

And I suspect from the same poll you got those stats you conveniently ignore the average Tea Party supporter score higher in education levels from high school thru a doctorate degree than non-supporters.

But hey as long as you like stats, 95 plus percent of black Americans voted for obama, not a bit of possible favoritism/racism there.

Not. One. Bit.

"No, it's when they claim t... (Below threshold)
jim m:

"No, it's when they claim they are fighting higher taxes while 52% admit that their own income taxes this year are "fair.""

Bruce, I don't know where you got the 52% but Gallup puts it at 45%. Which is funny since 47% of Americans pay no taxes at all. One would assume that the 47% that pay nothing cannot be complaining that they pay too much so logically they must make up most if not all of the 45% who say they pay the right amount.

Frankly, Bruce this makes you look like a complete ass (I know, not difficult).Of course people who pay nothing and get something in return think it's a fair deal. You never take anything like that into account when you look at pool results. It never occurs to you that there are reasons why people think taxes are OK. You just parrot talking points without ever giving them a moment of critical thought.

Straight to the spot right ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Straight to the spot right beside the point as usual, Marc. You're 100% consistent. Batting a thousand.

Good job.

The poll I was referring to... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

The poll I was referring to was from NYT/CBS, released just Friday, I think, Jim.

In it, of the 18% who say they "support" the Tea Party, 52% said their own income taxes were fair. So, whose taxes do they think are too high? After all, most are slightly above-average income earners.

Now you may think my comments make me look like an ass, Jim, but I'm not the one trying to refute poll results I haven't read.

Don't you get it Marc? When... (Below threshold)
klrtz1:

Don't you get it Marc? When you say something beside the point it's reprehensible, when Bruce Henry does it it's "nuance".

Hey, Bruce, check back in o... (Below threshold)

Hey, Bruce, check back in on the main page around 5:00 Eastern tomorrow morning. You're getting your very own shout-out.

I don't think you'll appreciate it much, but I mean it sincerely. I am honestly grateful to you.

J.

When I say something beside... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

When I say something beside the point, Mr Klrtz, you may have one. But not yet.

I'll try, Mr Tea, but I nee... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I'll try, Mr Tea, but I need to be at work by 7:30 am tomorrow. If I don't catch it early, I'll be sure to check in tomorrow evening.

Gosh, I'm all aquiver. I'm sure my face will be red.

Jay Tea,So your po... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Jay Tea,

So your point is that the "race card" is a red herring at best. Point taken. I think it's a good idea to move beyond the usual polemic crap that clogs the MSM and actually talk about the issues at hand. Too many people end up caught in an endless loop of rhetorical nonsense.

Now, on to some substance. Are you a supporter of the Tea Party movement? What particular ideas do you find appealing? What specific measures do you support? What changes do you want to see?

"The very idea of conser... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"The very idea of conservatism boils down to "I got mine, so screw you if you have trouble getting yours.""

You couldn't be more wrong, Bruce.

Ryan a, since the last time... (Below threshold)
Victory is Mao's:

Ryan a, since the last time you asked what the tea party stands for there have been numerous tea party events nationwide. Why did you not go to one of them and ask your questions there?

On the other hand, if all you want is regurgitated pap, you should interview Bruce Henry. He is certain he knows everything about the tea parties and I'm sure he'll be glad for your attention.

Peace.... (Below threshold)
Victory is Mao's:

Peace.

Mao,"Ryan a, since... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Mao,

"Ryan a, since the last time you asked what the tea party stands for there have been numerous tea party events nationwide. Why did you not go to one of them and ask your questions there?"

I get the gist of the general platform. IMO the movement is somewhat vague and all over the place, kind of like lots of large political movements. So it makes sense to me to try to clarify things somewhat, especially with specific people. I am asking Jay Tea a specific question. Do you have a problem with that? Or do you just prefer to sit around here and argue about unfair name-calling?

If you want to avoid the bullshit like race-baiting and all of that nonsense and talk about the issues at hand, by ALL MEANS. So don't give me this sh*t about going to Tea Party events. I get the whole free market-smaller govt-libertarian-fiscal conservative thing. It's not like there is exactly some new paradigm here, but there are a lot of people who are motivated to meet and speak out. Great. Now what?

Or do you just want to whine about what Rachel Maddow is saying today?

Bruce, I've been to one Tea... (Below threshold)

Bruce, I've been to one Tea Party rally. I'd have gone to another last week, but The Day Job intervened.

What I see as the Tea Party's platform is, simply put, a decreased role in domestic governance. Fewer federal intrusions into everyday life of average Americans. And a corresponding reduction in the federal budget and in taxes paid to the federal government.

Ever since the Democrats' resurgence in 2006, there has been more and more such increases in federal power in domestic matters. Spending has also kept pace with that, but not taxation -- leading to skyrocketing deficits.

The Tea Party people aren't too interested in specific changes. They don't want to get bogged down in petty details about which intrusions are the most offensive, which spending is the most egregious -- they just want a general decrease, and let the politicians work out the details -- that's why we hire them.

If they won't do that work, we'll get rid of them and hire new ones.

It's a very American thing.

J.

ryan a, since there is no o... (Below threshold)
Rodney:

ryan a, since there is no one leader of the Tea Party movement, and each and every event for the most part is organized at a local level,(with contact between organizers) other than the general platform of smaller, less intrusive and less taxing government. Who exactly would you ask ? The Tea Party movement is quite literally local people trying to control their government locally.

Jay Tea:"The Tea P... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Jay Tea:

"The Tea Party people aren't too interested in specific changes. They don't want to get bogged down in petty details about which intrusions are the most offensive, which spending is the most egregious -- they just want a general decrease, and let the politicians work out the details -- that's why we hire them."

Ya, I have basically heard the message about the "general decrease" of federal involvement/control. That is coming across. It's more about a general discontent than any specific movement.

That's why it's difficult to assess exactly what this "movement" is, and exactly what people want. It is a bit all over the place, but with a somewhat general idea about less government.

I can understand the fact that people are frustrated. But sometimes it seems like people get all riled up on all sides and end up sidetracked talking about political talking points instead of addressing specific ideas or issues or changes they want to see.

I am all for dissent and protest and speaking out. I think it's good when people actually get involved and start doing something.

I think there is a lot of misinformation and mis-communication about the Tea Party folks, which is what happens with all kinds of mass social movements. I think there are plenty of people with genuine, valid, real concerns--and I also think there are people who are angry and want to vent. Again, this is common in lots of social movements (on the left and on the right).

"ryan a, since there is no ... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

"ryan a, since there is no one leader of the Tea Party movement, and each and every event for the most part is organized at a local level,(with contact between organizers) other than the general platform of smaller, less intrusive and less taxing government. Who exactly would you ask ? The Tea Party movement is quite literally local people trying to control their government locally."

Rodney,

Well, then I would ask people who are involved or interested, like Jay Tea, to ask them what they think about the matter.

If the Tea Party is a loose collection of local movements, then it can be many things at once. The only way to understand the different variations is to talk to different people/local groups to see what they are doing and thinking. That's basic social science field research.

And, since I am basically working about 6-7 days a week and cannot travel around the country to undertake this research project at present, I have to find out about what this is all about via media, articles, and internet sites/blogs like this. So that's why I sometimes ask people why they support this movement, and what it is all about to THEM.

Is there a problem with asking you folks what you are doing? Are you not interested in talking about the issues? Would you rather spend time talking about the nasty political rhetoric on CNN and Fox? Is THAT going to solve all of our political and economic problems?

I am less interested in talking about the usual superficial political ping pong that flies around in the internet, and more interested in hearing about what people want and what they are pushing for. This applies to both sides.

The charge of 'racism' is u... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

The charge of 'racism' is used to derail a discussion.

That is, it attempts to argue why someone said something rather than what they said. Why someone says something has ZERO bearing on whether what they said is true.

Mike,That point ha... (Below threshold)
ryan a:

Mike,

That point has already been made, and I agree with you that people use these sorts of tactics to derail discussion and debate.

So, I'll try this one more time: what is it about the Tea Party that you find particularly appealing? What do you want to see change? Is there something new about this movement, in your opinion?




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