When You Have To Say It: Tea Party Racism (Again) and You?

Why I continue to follow links relating to the Tea Party and whatever problematic tripe they’re spewing on that particular day, I don’t know. I only have a certain amount of anxiety medication allotted each month and I can’t afford to waste it. When I saw that the NAACP called the Tea Party a bunch of racists — oh wait, excuse me, when their delegates “passed a resolution to condemn extremist elements within the Tea Party, calling on Tea Party leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches“, my first thought was “here we go”. Because whenever a person of color — usually a black person, let’s get real — brings up race and the Tea Party, Tea Party members go straight to their first line of defense: deny vehemently that they’re racist, and then call the black person reverse racist and ungrateful. Oh, and “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ABRAHAM LINCOLN? He freed the slaves, you know. Or did you like being slaves? I guess you did, because you don’t love freedom like we do.”

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton could probably see this coming ten miles away so they disassociated themselves real quick, as did Benjamin Jealous (really bad name to have in this case, dude, sorry), president of the NAACP. But it was too late. Something awful had to spew forth from a Tea Partier’s fingers onto their keyboard; that’s just how it works. This time, it took the form of a letter written by Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams, and it of course involves Abraham Lincoln. I’ll let you read it here, in its entirety:

Dear Mr. Lincoln

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the ‘tea party movement’.

The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.

And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!

The racist tea parties also demand that the government “stop the out of control spending.” Again, they directly target coloreds. That means we Coloreds would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.

Perhaps the most the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Sincerely

Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew NAACP Head Colored Person”

So the “National Tea Party Federation“, a group that apparently represents the Tea Partiers, (but I thought this group did that? And this one?) responded to Williams’ letter by kicking his Tea Party Express group out of their sandbox. What impact this has on Williams, I don’t know, since the Tea Party doesn’t appear to be centralized. As far as I know, he can go on writing hateful, racist letters in the voice of a plantation slave under the Tea Party banner until the end of time. That’s the beauty of decentralization, right? States’ rights and all.

How does this screw-up by their self-appointed leaders help the “Yep, I’m a Racist” ground troops who are trying so hard to convince us they’re not racist that they willingly call themselves racist? Well, if anyone believed them in the first place it’d make them look pretty bad. But no one does believe them, because they’re so obviously lying to themselves and to the public, and they probably don’t even think about it. Because as I’ve always said, when a white person has to tell you they’re not racist, they’re probably really fucking racist.

And finally, to bring it home, what can white feminists learn from this? If a white feminist has to tell me they’re my ally, they’re probably not really my ally. In fact they probably just did me some harm. Not to harsh your mellow after chewing on that meaty bit of obvious racism, just to bring you back to earth. Because you’re always walking that fine line when you have white privilege. You have to work to be anti-racist. It’s not always as easy to point out the racism in things. Sometimes you have to look hard, and sometimes you have to look inward.

But I’m sure I didn’t need to remind you lovely folks of that.

[This piece originally appeared on Feministe.]

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