Charles M. Blow has published an op-ed, A Mighty Pale Tea, that seems quite unfair to me.
After attending a tea party rally in Dallas, Texas, he writes:
I had specifically come to this rally because it was supposed to be especially diverse. And, on the stage at least, it was. The speakers included a black doctor who bashed Democrats for crying racism, a Hispanic immigrant who said that she had never received a single government entitlement and a Vietnamese immigrant who said that the Tea Party leader was God. It felt like a bizarre spoof of a 1980s Benetton ad.
I wouldn’t say it’s like a spoof of a Benetton Ad so much as evidence that the ideology responsible for Benetton ads has triumphed in America. Ethnic diversity has positive associations, and so it is pursued for the sake of appearances even when the visuals that result are contrived and artificial.
In any context except a Tea Party, the vast majority of liberal writers would praise the act of highlighting the voices of “people of color” even if they aren’t particularly representative of a crowd or corporation or university class. Let it happen at a rally of conservatives, however, and this winds up on the nation’s premier op-ed page:
I found the imagery surreal and a bit sad: the minorities trying desperately to prove that they were “one of the good ones”; the organizers trying desperately to resolve any racial guilt among the crowd. The message was clear: How could we be intolerant if these multicolored faces feel the same way we do?
And later in the same piece:
Thursday night I saw a political minstrel show devised for the entertainment of those on the rim of obliviousness and for those engaged in the subterfuge of intolerance. I was not amused.
It’s this kind of piece that causes people on the right to think that on matters of race, they’re damned if they do, and they’re damned if they don’t — if they don’t make efforts to include non-whites they’re unenlightened propagators of privilege, and if they do make those efforts they’re the cynical managers of a minstrel show, but either way, race is used as a cudgel to discredit them in a way that would never be applied to a political movement on the left.
The piece also treats the minorities who willingly spoke at the rally with some pretty profound disrespect. Elsewhere, the always enjoyable Michael Moynihan gives his impression of who attends Tea Party rallies:
…we met some perfectly normal, clever, interesting people (including a black goth kid from West Virginia who really, really wanted to “end the Fed”) and a cluster of weirdos not entirely convinced that President Obama was a Christian or that he wasn’t born at a madrassa in Swaziland. There were limited government types, libertarians, conspiricist kooks, and a handful of people who desperately need someone to elucidate the differences between liberalism, social democracy, socialism, and communism. One attendee, who was incredibly well informed on a number of issues, nevertheless explained that we were seeing an incrementalist approach to a Stalinist state. Interrupting, I said with sarcasm, “but, ya know, without the genocide.” Oh you naive young lad, he sighed, just wait and see.
Now, I usually preface all discussion of the Tea Parties with links to my criticism of some of the nonsense I have come across interviewing, to clarify that I find some of the rhetoric I’ve come across when reporting from various Tea Party events to be deeply problematic. But most of it, though, is simply a canned case against government spending.
What I really loved about this passage was the “black goth kid from West Virginia who really, really wanted to ‘end the Fed’” — as everyone knows who has actually attended any mass political rally, America is a deeply weird country filled with colorful individuals whose identities almost never fit into the categories that are so often discussed in the media.
I’d bet that “the black doctor who bashed Democrats for crying racism, a Hispanic immigrant who said that she had never received a single government entitlement and a Vietnamese immigrant who said that the Tea Party leader was God” are all interesting people with honestly held convictions that are understandable outgrowths of their reason and experience.
Mr. Blow, meanwhile, thinks that they are minstrels.