Tea Partiers find the upside to racism

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

After days and days of conservative commentators loudly denying that there was anything racial about the Tea Party protests or the September 12 hissy fit on the National Mall, the Tea Party organizers themselves have decided to take a different, even less coherent approach to the issue of race. According to CNN:

Posters portraying President Obama as a witch doctor may be racist, organizers of Tea Party protests say, but they reflect anger about where he is leading the country.

The posters, showing Obama wearing a feather headdress and a bone through his nose, have recently popped up in e-mails, on Web sites and at Tea Party protests.

The image has stoked debate and cast attention on the rallies, which have drawn people Tea Party organizers describe as on the fringe and not representative of the overall movement. Their general viewpoint, leaders say, is that there's been too much federal government intervention, particularly concerning health care and taxes.

The witch doctor imagery is blatantly racist, critics contend.

Others remind that presidents get made fun off all the time, and the election of a black president has only made racially charged political satire more sensitive.

While not denying the crudeness of the image, Tea Party organizers stressed that those who carry the signs are a few "bad apples."

"That [witch doctor] image is not representative at all of what this movement is about," said Joe Wierzbicki, a coordinator of the Tea Party Express, a three-week series of protests across the country.

The anger the image portrays, however, "says to me that a lot of people in this country are angry about the direction that the administration and Congress are taking us," he said.

"And you're going to see a wide expanse of those people," he continued. "Some are going to be more extreme. Most of them are going to be in the mainstream of American politics, as evidenced by Obama's falling poll numbers."

So ... Wierzbicki acknowledges that the Obama-witch doctor poster is racist and insists it's not representative of the movement, but in the next breath says it does represent the anger in this country towards the president and Congress, which is basically what the Tea Parties are all about, if the Tea Party Express mission statement is to be believed:

At each stop the tour will highlight some of the worst offenders in Congress who have voted for higher spending, higher taxes, and government intervention in the lives of American families and businesses. These Members of Congress have infringed upon the freedom of the individual in this great nation, and its time for us to say: "Enough is Enough!"

I suppose if the next Tea Party rally featured a flaming cross, that would represent their burning desire to stop health care reform.

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