Presidentâ€™s Race Key Factor in New Forms of Racism
Â The so-called Tea Party and Republican Party are essentially the same, they differ only in style. The Tea Party's big dust bowl rally last weekend in Searchlight, Nevada, home of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was led by Sarah Palin, who, script in hand, whipped up a cheering crowd. "Don't Tread on Me" signs and ugly anger set the tone of the rally in the desert.
Tea Party activists may be motivated by economic stress but their message is soaked in transparent venom that insinuates violence. Never before in this nation's history has a president been subjected to such attacks. Although Tea Party leaders and Palin, deny promoting violence, their scurrilous references to the president and democrats belie their words.
Palin told the crowd, "Our vote is our arms. We're not inciting violence. Don't get sucked into the lame-stream media lies." Meanwhile, on her incendiary website: In announcements to defeat an incumbent congressman, she used the image of a rifle scope and told supporters, "Don't retreat, instead, RELOAD." (Interspersed at the rally were Revolutionary War re-enactors, cut-out torches and skull-and-cross bone flags with President Obama's face superimposed over the skull.)
The literature at the dust bowl rally was plentiful and included Glenn Beck's "Arguing with Idiots" and Fredrick Bastiat's "The Law," which denounces public benefits as "false philanthropy." The dust bowl rally crowd, older and overwhelmingly white, kicked off a 42-city bus tour ending in Washington.
Numerous incidents reflect the Tea Party's view: Congressman John Lewis being called "nigger"; constant racially denigrating commentary on Fox, other networks, and conservative talk shows throughout the country; U C San Diego white students' "Compton Cookout" and noose debacle; a Republican congressman shouting "Baby Killer" in the House Chamber following passage of the Healthcare bill--the list goes on.
Tea Party targets are mainly the Democrats, President Obama and the financial bailout and healthcare bill; some suggest the movement represents the "revenge of white men." Various polls reflect conservatives' angst: 35% of white men and 43% of white women say they will back Democrats in the fall election; white women's support has remained steady, but white men's has fallen 8 points. Roughly the same proportion of white women-46% according to Gallop-as voted for Obama in 2008 approve of him now, but only 38% of white men now approve of him which means millions of them (41% in 2008) are no longer supporters.
An exodus of white men who voted Democratic in 2008 is also evident in Republican Scott Brown's election in Massachusetts. His opponent won 52% of white women, but white men voted for Brown by a 60%--38% margin. White men are moving away from the Democrats and Obama, apparently to the more natural conservative cocoon.
The signs are ominous but not really surprising. White flight from the Democratic Party increased as the federal government assumed a larger role, especially in banking and healthcare. Among whites, 71% of men and 56% of women favor a smaller government with fewer services over a larger government with more services (ABC Washington Post polling).
What are Blacks doing about all of this? They should be working on establishing common ground in order to develop strategic agendas that counter the conservative onslaught. The intensity and vulgarity of the attacks on President Obama are without precedent and Tea Party/Republican, skilled at obfuscation, rationalize with a constant patriotic cadence. But their position is clear, unlike Blacks', liberal' and progressives'.
A new Black leadership paradigm is needed to chart and direct fundamentally different, group- oriented strategies. The prevailing self-serving Black leadership model emulates the majority model and perpetuates the status quo, which clearly does not serve Blacks' interests. New thinking, planning and action are critically important and start with an honest assessment of the race-based barriers that continue to impede Blacks' progress.
The source of the Tea Party movement and the economic meltdown result from pro-rich, anti-working class/middle class and anti-poor policies of conservatives. This should be stressed publicly by all those targeted by the far right.
Common ground is the basis for successful Black efforts to gain full rights and effective moral leadership that confronts the reality of racism beneath conservatives' attacks on Obama and their other opponents is essential. The Tea Party/Republican alliance must be met with collective agendas that honor Black interests in any and all such attacks.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail