Is the Tea Party Racist?

Emily Ekins, a student at UCLA, conducted a study of the signs at a Tea Party rally.  She took pictures of about 250 signs and then categorized them.  She discovered that a quarter of them expressed anger at Obama, but only 5% mentioned his race or religion, and just 1% questioned his citizenship.

With the exception of a single article in the Washington Post   the mainstream media completely ignored her findings.  Bias?  Naw, not them.

The 5% number is telling.  A minimum of 10% of any group will be oddballs and misfits.  That goes for any organization, not just political ones.  I’ve served on the boards of two organizations that relied on volunteers, and about 10% of the people who showed up to help were creepy freaks you’d never choose to associate with.

In a recent interview with Bill O’Reilly, the president of the NAACP said they’d been monitoring Tea Party rallies for racist signs for the past six months.  They’d found one offensive t-shirt.  One.

As I’ve mentioned before, standard operating procedure for the left is slapping a “racist” tag on any groups, individuals, or even ideas they don’t agree with.  It makes it easy to ignore and dismiss them, which is soooo much easier than addressing the issues being raised.  They’ve been smearing the Tea Party since its inception.  Their “proof” consists of about two dozen tasteless signs they’ve found among the hundreds of thousands that have been displayed at rallies.  They post these pictures over and over again, at every opportunity.

This study isn’t definitive, and needs a follow-up.  It should include more signs, from different rallies, and several people with different political ideologies should rate them.  But this is a good start, and debunks the oft-repeated charges of TP racism.

I’ve got several problems with the Tea Party, which I’ll address in a later post, but it’s clear, from this study and the NAACPs inability to find racism at the rallies, despite their diligent search, that the most common smear on them is completely without merit.

14 Comment(s)

  1. Interesting. That only leaves about 27832 other types of craziness on their part.

    Ernesto Tantao | Oct 23, 2010 | Reply

  2. I read an article yesterday saying that a new poll (by a major polling organization) of people who identify as Tea Party supporters found that 11% said Obama’s race is a factor in their decision to not support him. Of course, now I can’t find the link. But it might be an interesting study to track down and dissect…I’ll see if I can dig it up.

    I agree with you that critics make a bigger deal out of the signs than they should. At the same time, I’m not sure that I can agree with you that, based on the sign deal alone, we can say that the criticism is “completely without merit.” It doesn’t debunk; it just doesn’t support. There are plenty of other ways to exhibit racism than through signs at rallies. As you said, there’s too much out there that still needs to be researched and analyzed.

    Ashley | Oct 24, 2010 | Reply

  3. You’re right, Ashley, I overstated it. I shouldn’t have used the word “completely,” because it’s a certainty that there will be some racism in *any* organization. But I thought this study was not only interesting, but it was also interesting how the mass media ignored it.

    Hittman | Oct 24, 2010 | Reply

  4. All I have to ask is one question: where were they when Bush was president? I realize that they didn’t really get off the ground until Ron Paul’s candidacy, but today’s tea-partiers and Ron Paul’s tea-partiers look and sound like completely different groups.

    Now, too often we’ll hear the “both parties are awful and need to be stopped” platitude from the tea party movement, but it’s really hard not to notice how disproportionately harder they go after Democrats than they go after Republicans. In fact, they criticize Republicans exactly…ummm…NEVER..except of course when someone calls them on bitching about Democrats when Republicans have done the same thing, THEN we get the “well there are bad things about both parties” backpedal.

    I don’t think the tea party is racist, but I think this “we’re equally against BOTH parties” color they’re trying to paint themselves is the color of very dark, brown, BULLSHIT. They’re Republicans, and most of them are in it simply because Democrats are automatically bad and wrong on everything because they’re Democrats, and Republicans are automatically good and right about everything because they’re Republicans. This isn’t about taxes or freedom, it’s “my team is better than YOUR team!” bullshit.

    Where was the tea party when the “conservative” supreme court decided to allow corporations the right to donate to political campaigns? Do they not see how this is a blatant conflict of interest? Where are the tea party rallies on the steps of the courthouse?

    The tea party may have started out with noble ideas, but the grass roots have grown astro turf. But, I will say this, they don’t hate Obama because he’s black. Not for the most part. They hate Obama because he’s a Democrat, because they automatically hate all Democrats because they’re Democrats. And they hate Democrats far worse than the Republicans even though both parties led us down this path hand-in-hand. In the words of George Carlin: “Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

    I think the only answer here is the abolition of political parties once and for all. Some may say “but what about the Libertarian party or the green party?” Sure, they seem pretty idealistic…now. But when political parties themselves are the problem, the solution isn’t to just add more of what doesn’t work. Libertarians and Greens and Taxpayers and whoever else have the convenience of…well…not being very attractive to special interests. Give the minor parties a little power and we’ll see how fast those campaign donation checks turn idealism into politics as usual.

    George Washington warned us about political parties, how they would drag down our political climate into a partisan pissing match where people fight with catch phrases instead of ideas, how they would easily be corrupted by foreign influence. And surprise, surprise, everything he warned us about has happened.

    GodlessHeathen | Oct 24, 2010 | Reply

  5. Dave,
    I agree there is racism in every group, I believe as long as we “see” color there will be racism, however I have seen little of it in the Tea Party. Granted, there are many in the Tea Party who object to Obama as president, but not due to his race, there are many other objections such as his overwhelming lack of experience, his openly socialist beliefs, his foreign upbringing, his utter hatred of America just to name a few. In your analysis of the Tea Party, please make note of the quality of the signs, the professionaly made signs are from outside groups, Larouche supportes spring to mind, and I beleve you will find they are the most objectionable.

    Your question “Where were you when Bush was President?” and statement “They hate Democrats because they are Democrats” indicate typical mis-information about the Tea Party, but you almost made the connection when you noticed that todays Tea Party is completely different than Ron Paul’s Tea Party. That is correct since todays Tea Party has nothing to do with Ron Paul. Ron Paul may have had a couple “Tea Party” events in support of his bid for President, but the current Tea Party started after the T.A.R.P. bill was passed. And yes, George Bush was President when that happened, but blaming the President for a spending bill is mis-leading since spending bills originate in the House of Representatives. Now if you still wnat to blame Bush for the deficits and national debt during his terms in office, then you must blame Obama for the first 2 years of his term. Here’s a hint, Obama’s number is MUCH higher. Now, since spending starts with the House and the House has been controlled by Democrats since Nancy Pelosi became Speaker in 2006 and since the national debt has increased by nearly 5 TRILLION DOLLARS since 2006, you can see why we might be inclined to dislike Democrats, not because they are Democrats, but because of their actions.
    Yes we complain about Democrats more than Republicans since most of the things we object to, and the reason the Tea Party exists, came from Democrats, but if you look a little closer to the signs you will see a number of them say some form of “Vote them All Out” meaning we don’t trust Republicans either. Further, you should note that most, if not all, Tea Party endorsed candidates are new to the political arena. Sure they run as a Republican but that is because of our rigid 2 party system. I mean if you want to see 27832 types of crazy just look at the 3rd party candidates we’ve had in the past, those people are nuts and they skew elections. My biggest complaint about the Tea Party movement is that is is being dominated by the Bible thumping Jesus freaks, and that is skewing other peoples view of the movement. The true goals of the Tea Party movement are Limited Govenment, Fiscal Responsibility and free markets.

    Brian Riley | Oct 26, 2010 | Reply

  6. Brian, your second to the last sentence is my biggest problem with the TP. (My second biggest problem is who they use as spokespeople.) The religious bullshit pollutes their entire message.

    Hittman | Oct 26, 2010 | Reply

  7. Dave,
    I suspected that was your biggest complaint, having read your blog for a while now. I am a bit of an anomoly due to the fact that I am a non-religious conservative, and I cringe every time I go to a TP rally and see the bible thumpers trying to make the TP about religion, but I know that they are a fringe element of the TP, one note activists co-opting the TP movement for their pet issue, much like Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, Dick Armey, Sarah Palin and all the others who attached themselves to the TP movement but are not it’s leaders. In fact Glen Beck “supported” the TP last september 12th by holding a religious rally in DC 2 weeks before, and since most people can’t attend 2 rallys that close together, our rally on 9/12 was much smaller than it should have been. The TP was started by individuals spontaneously across the country and it’s real leaders are unknown to most people. If we had a recognized leader we could probably get better press, but then it would not be a true grass roots movement and would not have the participation it has had. In fact, on 9/12/09 when we first marched on the Capitol, there were disputes about haw many attended, but whether it was 2 million or just 78000, the fact is there were people there from every state in the union and for every one of us that made the journey, there were at least 10 who couldn’t, ant that is the true strength of the Tea Party movement.

    Brian Riley | Oct 27, 2010 | Reply

  8. And now I can no longer complain about your spelling and grammer, since mine sucks too. :)

    Brian Riley | Oct 27, 2010 | Reply

  9. >>>but blaming the President for a spending bill is mis-leading since spending bills originate in the House of Representatives

    True. But when spending remains way too high under Speaker Boehner, do you think anyone (other than you) in the Tea Party will be saying that? Somehow, I still think your compatriots will still be blaming it on Obama. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong; that would be nice.

    >>>The religious bullshit pollutes their entire message.

    Sen. Jim DeMint can take a lot of credit for that. People think Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin led it into those waters, but I really believe it’s DeMint and his “America needs to turn back to God” and “America has always been a Christian nation” garbage that did it. As soon as he started to rise in profile this spring, the Tea Party took a hard turn to the Religious Right behind him. He cherry-picked the most religious candidates they’ve got up right now, he’s the one forging the back-room alliances with the AFA and FotF, he’s the one putting out the ultra-religious “culture wars” talking points, etc. Most Christians in the movement see Beck and Palin as being piggybacking wingnuts, but I fear that far too many are signing on with DeMint without realizing what he’s doing to their movement. :/

    Ashley | Oct 27, 2010 | Reply

  10. “Now if you still wnat to blame Bush for the deficits and national debt during his terms in office, then you must blame Obama for the first 2 years of his term. Here’s a hint, Obama’s number is MUCH higher.”

    The President still signs bills into law, and Bush still signed the TARP bill into law, so I fail to see how you can argue that TARP wasn’t Bush’s fault. The bill may have originated in the House, but it had bipartisan support. It originated with Treasury Secretary Paulson, a Republican.

    Secondly, I see you’ve been reading a certain chart that’s been going around. It was put out by the Congressional Budget Office, which projected a $1.2 trillion deficit for 2009 before Bush left the white house. It was actually $1.4 trillion, so 85% of 2009’s deficit was due to policies enacted by Bush (source: Obama’s main contributions to the deficit include the extension of several Bush-era policies as well, such as the Iraq War. According to an analysis done by the New York Times, Obama is responsible for only a sliver of the 2009 deficit (

    Is Obama partially to blame for the deficit? Yes. But not nearly as much as conservatives are making it out to be. I’m sure you’re well aware that there is no gigantic “RESET” button that gets pressed when a new president takes office. Policies from previous administrations do have an effect on the future.

    GodlessHeathen | Oct 28, 2010 | Reply

  11. I’m sure you’re well aware that there is no gigantic “RESET” button that gets pressed when a new president takes office.

    Wouldn’t that be great, though?

    You could just press it 43 times.

    Dave Hitt | Oct 30, 2010 | Reply

  12. More fuel for the fire:

    Interpretation of all of that should be fascinating.

    Ashley | Nov 17, 2010 | Reply

  13. Are you going to make that post detailing your issues with the Tea Party? Your public awaits. :)

    Ashley | Jul 2, 2011 | Reply

  14. My primary issues with them is they’ve hijacked the Liberty movement and polluted it with Fundamentalist Christianity. They’ve misrepresented it, and degraded it, and made it all too easy for opponents of liberty to use them to “prove” how/why the liberty movement is wrong.

    Hittman | Jul 9, 2011 | Reply

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