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Are Tea Partiers Racist?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 19:29
Tea Party rally, Washington, DC. A protester wraps himself in an American flag, 12/07/09. (photo: Getty Images)

Tea Party rally, Washington, DC. A protester wraps himself in an American flag, 12/07/09. (photo: Getty Images)

new study shows that the movement's supporters are more likely to be racially resentful.

Ever since the Tea Party phenomenon gathered steam last spring, it has been plagued by charges of racism. Placards at rallies have depicted President Barack Obama as a witch doctor, denounced his supposed plans for "white slavery," and likened Congress to a slave owner and the taxpayer to a "n----r." Opponents have seized on these examples as proof that Tea Partiers are angry white folks who can't abide having a black president. Supporters, on the other hand, claim that the hateful signs are the work of a small fringe and that they unfairly malign a movement that simply seeks to rein in big government. In the absence of empirical evidence to support either characterization, the debate has essentially deadlocked.

Until now, that is. A new survey by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality offers fresh insight into the racial attitudes of Tea Party sympathizers. "The data suggests that people who are Tea Party supporters have a higher probability" - 25 percent, to be exact - "of being racially resentful than those who are not Tea Party supporters," says Christopher Parker, who directed the study. "The Tea Party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race."

Surveyers asked respondents in California and a half dozen battleground states (like Michigan and Ohio) a series of questions that political scientists typically use to measure racial hostility. On each one, Tea Party backers expressed more resentment than the rest of the population, even when controlling for partisanship and ideology. When read the statement that "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites," 73 percent of the movement's supporters agreed, while only 33 percent of people who disapproved of the Tea Party agreed. Asked if blacks should work their way up "without special favors," as the Irish, Italians, and other groups did, 88 percent of supporters agreed, compared to 56 percent of opponents. The study revealed that Tea Party enthusiasts were also more likely to have negative opinions of Latinos and immigrants.

These results are bolstered by a recent New York Times/CBS News survey finding that white Tea Party supporters were more likely to believe that "the Obama administration favors blacks over whites" and that "too much has been made of the problems facing black people." The survey also showed that Tea Party sympathizers are whiter, older, wealthier, and more well-educated than the average American. They're "just as likely to be employed, and more likely to describe their economic situation as very or fairly good," according to a summary of the poll.

If Tea Party supporters are doing relatively fine, what are they so riled up about? These studies suggest that, at least in part, it's race. The country that the Tea Partiers grew up in is irrevocably changing. Last month, new demographic data showed that minority births are on the verge of outpacing white births. By 2050, Hispanics are expected to account for more than a quarter of the American population. The Tea Partiers "feel a loss ... like their status has been diminished," says David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which examines issues of race. "If you listen to [their] language, it's always about 'taking our country back.' But it's really not taking the country back as is. It's taking the country back" - as in time.

Bositis finds the movement's arguments about reckless federal spending unpersuasive. Why, he asks, weren't they up in arms when President George W. Bush launched two costly wars and created a new unfunded mandate with his Medicare prescription-drug plan? Why didn't they take to the streets when he converted a surplus into a massive deficit? "I don't like to be in a position where I'm characterizing people as being racially biased," says Bositis. "But when the shoe fits, what do you do?" Given modern societal norms, "they know they can't use any overtly racist language," he contends. "So they use coded language" - questioning the patriotism of the president or complaining about "socialist" schemes to redistribute wealth.

The Tea Partiers bridle at such accusations. "That is so pathetic," says Danita Kilcullen, the founder of Tea Party Fort Lauderdale. "Nobody in the Tea Party movement that I know is a racist." She notes that she attends a church with a black pastor, supports a black candidate (Allen West) in a local congressional race, and backs a Latino candidate (Marco Rubio) for U.S. Senate. When a protestor showed up at one of her group's rallies with a racist sign, she says, she personally kicked him off the corner. "We absolutely don't tolerate anything like that," says Kilcullen. "Nobody uses the N word. Nobody calls Mexicans all those ugly things that people say. Those are lies about us." She concedes that the movement doesn't draw many African-Americans. "But that's because all the black people voted for Obama," she says. "Well, not all - but 90 percent." (It was actually 95 percent.)

Some Tea Partiers blame the media for casting them as racists. "It really makes me mad," says Tom Fitzhugh, a Tea party activist in Tampa. "They have tried to portray us as a bunch of radical extremists." He considers Obama an abomination - possibly "the most radical-voting senator that ever was" and someone likely to "take us down the path of destruction." He believes the administration is intent on taking away his guns, trampling on states' rights, and opening the borders with Canada and Mexico. He has serious doubts that Obama was born in the U.S. and suspects that the president is a closet Muslim. (There's no evidence to support any of these accusations.) But his anger has nothing to do with race, he says. The real issue is that Obama is "taking down the Constitution and the way it's governed us for [hundreds of] years." All he wants, in other words, is to take his country back.

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+20 # Guest 2010-04-27 21:27

Their rationalization s are the same ones I've heard any time a Democrat was POTUS. . .just very extremely exaggerated in Obama's case. The conspiracy theories added to it just ramp up the ante, so to speak.

Their attitudes are sublimated; maybe they truly believe they're not there. . .but they are. Friends and family would deny it as well, but it is there.

"When mouth and action disagree, believe action." - Frank Herbert
+17 # Guest 2010-04-27 23:16
My Opinion:.. Tea Party-ers are Global Corporate Media's well hooked HOODWINKEES..., Americans being led down a special interest Corporate road where they feel 'united' in a 'struggle' and 'fight the good fight' fortheir 'Freedoms' through evermore obsessive-compu lsive Corporate Deregulation Schemes which, in reality, does nothing for them or us and everything for Global-Corporat e efforts to remove 'WE THE PEOPLE' control over Our Country and what Global Corporations can and cannot do within Our Borders. Its a BIG HOODWINKING. Its sold as some Patriotic Pathway to Liberty and Freedom for All..., while its sole, simple purpose is the granting of greater and greater freedom to Global Corporations to run amok in America free of responsibility or accountability while increasing Global Corporate sway over what was once upon a time- Our Government...
+8 # Guest 2010-04-28 07:53
Absolutely right! Calling themselves tea partiers is close to accurate - what they really are is Kool-Aid drinkers; they have guzzled the corporate Kool-Aid with gusto and the corporate fat cats are grinning with every sip they take.
+3 # Guest 2010-04-29 11:23
It isn't so much that they are guzzling the corporate Kool Aid, but that they ARE corporate fat cats. Notice that the data shows that they are wealthier than the average American. When you look at how many working class slobs there are among them in the rallies, there has to be a bunch of actual corporate fat cats among them in order to bring up the average.
+20 # Guest 2010-04-28 00:44
Of course the Tea Party is about race. Obama is actually a center right politician if you look at his policies. These people would have loved John McCain, who would probably have pursued policies essentially the same as Obama's, minus the pretty rhetoric. Shameful.
+18 # Guest 2010-04-28 02:32
Campo-Flores does not mention the organizers of the tea party movement -- the right wing AM hate radio blowhards like Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Levin, and more. The tea party movement exists because these propagandists have brought them into existence. Sure, the blowhards manipulate an irrational resentment but there's has always been the politics of resentment. All of the tea party movement is just republican politicking, trying to gin up the enthusiasm for its base. When I look at photos of tea party events, all I see is the good old amerikkkan idiocracy.
-1 # Merschrod 2010-04-28 05:08
To really delve into the data of say the Times/CBS poll, the data needs to be analyzed in a multivariate way - scaling, cross-tabs at least, facto analysis. The simple frequncies and percentages are not enough. How about free access to the raw data?
+4 # Guest 2010-04-28 07:09
This is the face of racism in the 21st century. It's not that they "hate" minorities, it's just that they "resent them" or are uncomfortable with them. Even liberals fall into this trap. I have worked in a university where a white male faculty blocked hiring of women and minorities for years. When they were accused of discrimination they always denied it, claiming they simply "weren't comfortable" with the female or non-white job candidates. The department stayed all white, however, and remains so to this day. It is obvious that the resentment against Obama is because he is "not one of them", therefore they truck out the code terms.

On the other hand this article is a typical gutless liberal copout. It lays out the evidence and then gives the tea-party the last word (in this case the entire last paragraph). The message that the reader takes home is "taking back the country", which is basically saying "If it's all white, then it's all right". By their "country" they mean they keep power.
+6 # Guest 2010-04-28 08:40
they believe what they hear on right wing radio and fox news
+10 # Guest 2010-04-28 08:49
This poll showed that teabaggers are wealthier and better-educated than average Americans. In other words, this is an elitist group masquerading as a populist movement. And as RM pointed out, it is even more revealing that the main promoters of teabaggers are very rich right-wing radio hosts or Faux news employees. But even more revealing are the main organizers, like Dick Armey's group, heavily funded by huge corporations that are as anti-populist and elitist as they come. They don't really "want their country back". They have stolen our country from us and are now afraid we might take it back. Let's show them their fear is not unfounded.
0 # Guest 2010-04-28 09:41
To say or believe otherwise would be a big lie, but than lying is a cherished virtue for these immoral groups, isn't it?

The ironic part of all this bigotry and racism is, it took an American of color (a black president) to bring the truth about institutionaliz ed racism in the US of A!

The question is, how are we as American citizens who cherish and live by the Constitution of the United States going to deal with it! Will we degenerate morally like them by confronting them as such? The concept of an eye for an eye comes to mind. The time might not be so long before that could happen. I now consider them the enemy to everything America (the US of A) stands for.

Frankly speaking, where is Gen Sherman when you need him.
-11 # Guest 2010-04-28 12:40
This crowed thinks any group small or large of people with white skin, is inherently racist.
-2 # Guest 2010-04-29 11:27
Especially when they favor minorities with the fruits of their resentment ignoring whites who do the same or worse.

And the word is "crowd".
+9 # Guest 2010-04-28 13:06
One thing that really proves that tea baggers are racist: If they weren't, they would be yelling their heads off about the law in AZ which allows police and border patrol to stop and ask for "papers."
-8 # Guest 2010-04-28 15:23
I don't want to be a racist. Does this mean that I have to support Barack Obama? I do not like his policies, such as corporate welfare, government takeover of the auto industry and war. I guess I will just have to be pro-war and pro corporate welfare so as to avoid being a racist. Thanks.
+5 # Guest 2010-04-28 21:56
Quoting Matt:
I don't want to be a racist. Does this mean that I have to support Barack Obama? I do not like his policies, such as corporate welfare, government takeover of the auto industry and war. I guess I will just have to be pro-war and pro corporate welfare so as to avoid being a racist. Thanks.

Hey, I don't like some of Obama's policies myself. For example: his health care legislation mimics that Of Mitt Romney, a Republican as you know. I wish Obama would have settled for no less than single payer/universal health care. But you refer to corporate welfare as if Obama invented it. That's not true. Government take over of the auto industry? Gee? Did he really? Or did he take temporary control while GM got it's house in order? The war? Wasn't that Bush's baby to begin with? You don't have to support Obama, but no one has to lie and call him a socialist or a communist or all the other nonsense T-baggers say.
-1 # Guest 2010-04-28 15:26
"If Tea Party supporters are doing relatively fine, what are they so riled up about?"

Well, I'm not doing 'relatively fine'. But apparently if I WAS doing 'relatively fine', I would not be allowed to oppose any government policies. Interesting, but I'm not sure how that logically follows.

"white Tea Party supporters were more likely to believe that "the Obama administration favors blacks over whites""

Does this mean that blacks who think Bush favored whites are automatically racist as well? Completely nonsensical...
0 # Guest 2010-04-28 18:36
Quoting Matt:
"If Tea Party supporters are doing relatively fine, what are they so riled up about?"

Well, I'm not doing 'relatively fine'. But apparently if I WAS doing 'relatively fine', I would not be allowed to oppose any government policies. Interesting, but I'm not sure how that logically follows.

Does this mean that blacks who think Bush favored whites are automatically racist as well?


The point about being riled up isn't a particularly good argument so I agree with you there.
+4 # Guest 2010-04-29 11:32
The difference between the two positions is the data. There is no data showing that Obama is favoring blacks. Therefore it's a good bet that whites who think he is doing that are in fact racist. Katrina and its aftermath is all you have to say about Bush's attitudes towards blacks so to claim that blacks are racist because they object to Bush favoring rich white folks is nonsensical.
+3 # Guest 2010-04-28 16:17
free speech allows everyone to make a fool of themselves but the best benefit of free speech is that these tea partiers
make me feel superior intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. So I say let them make fools of themselves it makes me feel so good.
+6 # Guest 2010-04-28 17:52
The tea party movement will end up being nothing but a fly speck on American history. It's mainly a bunch of angry old white men, with very few young people involved. Their support of such whining losers as half-Governor Palin makes them look foolish. As a white person, I feel they are an embarrassment to the rest of us white people.
+6 # Guest 2010-04-29 06:56
The Tea Party was established April, 2008. Three months after Obama was inaugurated. He had not had a chance to implement anything in that time period. The premise that they use to dignify their actions, is false. Someone had this planned beforehand.
+4 # Guest 2010-04-29 07:21
They called clinton a murderer and rapist. Remember all the email forwards about the 40 people Bill Clinton killed? Or, the wake of people who had been raped in Arkansas?

Why are we surprised these people are calling obama a nazi? This is simply how they play defense, get the nutjobs to scream bloody-murder.

What's funny is people who want to return to the 50's only want some of the 50's policies. They want to be able to treat blacks bad, but they foolishly oppose progressive taxation and the role of unions (the two items which basically define the economic framework of the 50's).
+3 # Guest 2010-04-29 15:21
While we squabble over Right vs Left, or R's vs D's, or even whites vs "the other" --- those employing 'divide & conquer' tactics gloat and continue to rip-off all of us. An excellent non partisan, apolitical book by Ellen H. Brown ("the Web of Debt") reveals the real enemy of us all. GOOGLE =
+3 # Guest 2010-04-29 15:28
President Obama is not the beginning of war or corporate welfare. Where have you been all these years? As someone wrote before, where was all this outcry say even five (5) years ago??
+2 # Guest 2010-05-01 04:20
Not only are the TPs racists, so is our entire society. Just think if that 'movement' were comprised of primarily African Americans, marching on Washington with guns strapped to their hips, calling the president Hitler and carrying signs depicting piles of dead bodies, screaming about wanting their country back. No question.
+1 # Guest 2010-05-20 08:53
Sounds like the Bush years.

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