The NAACP and The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) have just released a report called Tea Party Nationalism. The NAACP’s basic stance is that most Tea Partiers are perfectly nice people. There are some, however, documented white supremacists, white nationalists and bigots who have infiltrated the Tea Party — and some of these have reached leadership levels in the various factions of the loosely organized Tea Party movement.

Yeah…I’m feeling perhaps less charitable than that. It’s up to the Tea Party to convince us that they repudiate racism and bigotry of any kind and to expel the bad apples lest they poison the whole barrel. So to speak. It’s up to them to distance themselves from the hate groups who have attached themselves to the movement if they wish to persuade the nation that racial/ethnic animus is not a primary driver of the Tea Party. Certainly the Birther section of the report which documents the pattern of nativism and hatred underpinning the fallacy that there’s some kind of problem with Barack Obama’s citizenship is concerning. From that section of the report, here are just a couple of examples of how prevalent and how high within Tea Party leadership ranks this fallacy rises:

It is the notion that President Barack Obama is not a real natural born American, that he is some other kind of person, that abounds in Tea Party ranks and draws this movement into a pit of no return. Much of this sentiment predates the actual formation of Tea Parties. For example, in October 2008, before the election, Amy Kremer, who later became a figure from both Tea Party Patriots and Tea Party Express, wrote of Sen. John McCain: “…he needs to tell Nobama to bring his authentic birth certificate to the debate. I am so tired of the spin from his spinmeisters! Johnny Mac…just go straight to the source!”[248] This sentiment was coupled with a profound alienation and distrust of established American institutions. On January 8, 2009, she wrote: “I have lost all hope on this issue of OBami’s eligibility to be President of the United States. I am totally disillusioned after sitting and watching Congress certify the Electoral College vote on CSPAN without one objection.”[249]

Among those promoting these ideas after the 2008 election was Tea Party Nation’s marketing director, Pam Farnsworth, who asked, “Where’s the birth certificate?” in a June 4, 2009 tweet.[250] She also remarked that, “New bill would make Obama a US natural-born citizen. Doesn’t the Constitution mandate he already be one to hold office?”[251]

The report is a helpful step and a good beginning. Certainly some of this information has already been uncovered by bloggers and the media. But no one has taken as comprehensive a view. That said, there are some weaknesses in how the report is being presented. The Tea Party bears intense scrutiny given the racist subtexts of their messaging and their repeated connection to violence such as the would-be Tides/ACLU gunman, James Von Brunn (Holocaust Museum shooter) and the guy who flew his plane into a Texas IRS building. The so-called manifesto of the latter nutjob, Joe Stack, echoed the same style of frustrated refrains and calls to “rise up” that you can hear on Fox News and from Tea Party leaders on a regular basis:

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I actually think that this NAACP report doesn’t go far enough. This is no time to pull punches. I would have preferred the following elements in order to really move the issue forward and force the Tea Party to respond – particularly Tea Party candidates and Tea Party leaders.

  • a map or chart that shows the current linkages of Tea Party factions & groups to nationalists, white supremacists, anti-immigration folks, Klan or CCC members and other groups like that. That would be helpful.
  • a list of people the Tea Party should consider dumping and ideally, some incriminating YouTube
  • a map of where the Tea Party people who are known problems (bigots, nationalists, etc) live and their current TP affiliation AND are they connected to any voter GOTV or registration. What’s the relationship between known racists in the Tea Party and Tea Party candidates — that’s what we need to know. (Well, we already know some of that! But more research into these connections is needed.)

I’m sure you may have thoughts yourselves. Here are a few highlights from the report. I suggest you head over to to see more and you might also want to check out which is a coalition effort between the NAACP, Think Progress, Media Matters, and New Left Media to monitor the Tea Party.

Prominent web postings by James von Brunn on Tea Party Express partner websites. Von Brunn is the self-declared white supremacist who murdered a guard at Washington’s Holocaust Museum last year.

Verbal Attacks On the First Family: Multiple racist attacks on the Obama family on the same website. In July 2009, after Obama’s eleven-year-old daughter Malia was photographed wearing a T-shirt depicting a peace symbol, the “Free Republic” featured racist comments about Obama’s family, using racist epithets and terms like “Ghetto street trash.” This language was accompanied by a photograph of the First Lady speaking to her daughter with the caption, “To entertain her daughter, Michelle Obama loves to make monkey sounds.”

Presidential Death Threats: Mark Williams, former chairman of the Tea Party Express authored a book entitled “Taking Back America One Tea Party at a Time” in which he threatens the President’s life: “I am not going into a painfully detailed 1,300 + year history of the 7th Century Death Cult we call “Islam” and how it came to be…The details of how my assailant came to be my assailant really do not concern me; I just want him contained or dead.”

Nazi Glamorization: Billy Joe Roper, a founder of white nationalist organization White
Revolution, and a prominent member of the ResistNet Tea Party eulogized William Pierce (author of The Turner Diaries) by saying “I promised him [Pierce] that I would do my best to spend the rest of my life making sure that one hundred and one thousand years from now, white children are taught his name right along with George Washington’s and Adolph Hitler’s, as one of the great men of our race.”

Racism and Homophobia in Congress: On March 20, 2010, a Tea Party protest turned into an attack on a small group of Congressmen walking through the Capitol. Chants of “Kill the Bill” turned to racist slurs. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was attacked as a “faggot.” Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) was called “n…er,” and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) was spat upon.

Imposing Religion on Race: E.W. Jackson, celebrated member of the Tea Party created the STAND America PAC by “declaring war on the Democratic Party and the liberal Congressional Black Caucus.” According to Jackson, “The Democrat Party’s commitment to abortion, homosexuality, and moral relativism is an affront to the values of the black Christian community. It is a ‘Coalition of the godless.’ Black Christians do not belong in a ‘coalition of the godless,’ and should not vote for those who are.

Racist = White Person? In an essay entitled “Racism, Schmacism”, Tea Party sympathizer James Edwards claimed that the term “racist” simply “means white person.” Specifically to the charge of racism, he wrote that Tea Partiers should respond, “So what?” or “Of Course, we’re racist – we’re white people.”

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