Not Too Far Below the Surface, Evidence of Racism Continues to Haunt the Tea Party
And some folks still wonder why the Tea Party movement has a racial image problem.
In recent weeks, white separatists wrapped themselves in a Tea Party cloak and staged a rally in Orange County, Calif. An Ohio Tea Party group sued a city school district after officials canceled the appearance of a virulently anti-Muslim evangelist the group sponsored. And then, last week, a black Tea Party Nation commentator unleashed an acerbic verbal attack on “black race pimps” that would have made David Duke blush with pride.
Lloyd Marcus, who clearly relishes his role as a black Tea Party figure who can disparage black centrists and liberals in terminology all but the crudest of white extremists would take care to avoid publicly, launched a fresh offensive last Wednesday. His latest target: the black organization ColorOfChange.org, for its campaign to pressure two regulars on Donald Trump’s television show, “Celebrity Apprentice” – Star Jones and Lil Jon – to repudiate the prospective presidential candidate for what the group describes as “race-baiting” comments Trump has made regarding Barack Obama. (Full disclosure: The co-founder of ColorOfChange.org, James Rucker, is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s board.)
In response to ColorOfChange.org, Marcus – a conservative who calls himself “a proud, unhyphenated American” – let loose with both rhetorical barrels. “Black ‘race pimps’ continue to despicably, without reservation, drive a wedge into the heart of national race relations,” he wrote in a commentary carried by the conservative website Renew America. “Whenever these black race pimps, including the Obama administration, find themselves on the losing end of an argument, they turn it into a racial issue branding the opposition racist.”
He went on: “In response to the uppity white boy [Trump], who dared question their king, a few black celebrities and black bullies disguised as ‘civil rights’ groups are calling Donald Trump a racist targeting him for destruction. So, are all of the other Americans curious about why Obama was not presenting his birth certificate racist as well? Will somebody please tell these black racist bullies to ‘stop it and get a life’?” [Second disclosure: Mark Potok, the white editor of this blog, was one of those who recently asserted that Trump was a racist.]
Even that might have barely passed the smell test, but then Marcus resorted to mocking black people who “sound smart.”
“I watched a black intellectual on TV shilling for Obama,” Marcus writes, not bothering to name the program or the individual. “He used a plethora of big words to cover the simple school yard truth that he was a black bully racist, committed to Obama no matter what. Sounding extremely intelligent, the black racist was spouting lies and illogical stupid conclusions. But man, did he sound ‘smart.’”
Ironically, while accusing the left of using Obama’s blackness as a kind of shield against criticism, Marcus uses his own blackness as cover for his notion that any defense of Obama is prima facie proof of black or leftist racism. “The Left exploits Obama’s black skin color as their ‘Weapon of Mass Intimidation’; a coat of armor insulating him from all opposition and reasonable critique,” Marcus wrote in March.
Even as Marcus argues that the Tea Party movement deserves the racial high ground, a racist organization staged a rally that sought to appropriate the tea party name. The American Third Position (A3P), a fledgling white-nationalist political party, on April 16 staged what was billed as a Tax Day Tea Party rally in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., featuring speeches by its own white-separatist founder and one of America’s leading Holocaust deniers.
A3P on its website took credit for arranging the rally, although it was done under the name of a newly formed astroturf group called the California Grassroots Alliance. The alliance has a web page at the site of TeaParty.org, once one of the more influential Tea Party coalitions, but which itself has been mired in allegations of racism against its founder, Dale Robertson. (Robertson once criticized Obama for spending a Memorial Day with “his homies in the Chicago hood … shooting hoops, smoking cigarettes”). Beyond that connection, it’s not clear if the Alliance has any authentic Tea Party ties. What it certainly lacks is clout: The rally drew a pathetic turnout – the local Orange County Register said 40 people attended, although a video of the event suggests even that might be a generous count.
There wasn’t anyone on the bill that day who didn’t have white supremacist pedigrees.
The marquee speaker was A3P founder William Johnson, who has advocated the wholesale forced deportation of non-whites, including American Indians, who lived on the continent for thousands of years before white Europeans arrived. At the rally, Johnson reaffirmed his support for a separate “white ethno-state,” but encouraged Tea Party supporters to welcome him anyway in their pursuit for a “revolution with love in it that can be peaceful.” Also featured was Mark Weber, who, along with British-born colleague David Irving, ranks among the world’s leading Holocaust deniers. Weber, who heads the Institute for Historical Review, spent most of his address railing against illegal immigration, but allowed his white separatist orientation to peek through, noting the “foolish lie” that “diversity is our strength.”
The white-nationalist hate group Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) — the modern incarnation of the racist White Citizens Councils, which opposes all efforts “to mix the races of mankind” and has referred to blacks as a “retrograde species of humanity” — maintained a display table at the event. Entertainment was provided by Traven Tucker, described on the white racist website Stormfront.org as an “American white nationalist” performer. Tucker’s album Till the Day I Die featured a Confederate battle flag on its cover and included such songs as “Ain’t No Shame (Bein’a White Man),” described by a Stormfront commenter as “[a] fantastic song which rubbishes the liberal idea that to be proud of your heritage is shameful.”
Also in April, four Mansfield, Ohio, mayoral candidates opted to forgo a debate sponsored by the Mansfield North Central Ohio Tea Party Association. The association in March had scheduled a presentation by Usama Dakdok, a stridently anti-Muslim Christian evangelical who has made such comments as “How can you be a Muslim and not be demonized?” and “There is no such thing as a loving Muslim.”
The Mansfield City School District canceled Dakdok’s presentation citing safety concerns. The Tea Party group, claiming the district violated public access rules, sued – prompting the mayoral candidates and the incumbent mayor to decline to attend its forum.