Tim Wise : Imagine if the Tea Party Were Black

Imagine if these guys were black. Demonstrators carried weapons at a “Restore the Constitution” rally on the Potomac in Arlington, VA, April 19. Photos (top) by Bob Barnard / Fox 5 / New York, and (below) by Win McNamee / Getty Images.

Changing Places:
What if they had been black?

By Tim Wise / April 25, 2010

Imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color.

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure — the ones who are driving the action — we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead.

The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

  • Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters — the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government?

    Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

  • Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.
  • Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.
  • Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur.

    When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network?

    Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

  • Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough — “living fossils” as he called them — “so we will never forget what these people stood for.”

    After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois, in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

  • Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.
  • Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?”

    After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

  • Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up The New York Times.
  • Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on freerepublic.com last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”
  • Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.
  • In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color.

    How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

    To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic.

    Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

    And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

    Game Over.

    [Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. His latest book is called Between Barack and a Hard Place.]

    Source / Ephphatha Poetry

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    12 Responses to Tim Wise : Imagine if the Tea Party Were Black

    1. The Good news is that the TeaBags will destroy their own movement.
      For instance :That one fellow in the picture, pointing his carbine muzzle down, is going to wind up shooting himself in the foot, in the harsh learning curve of “why we don’t point our muzzles downward”

      The biggest reason is the assumption he’s obviously been sold that buying a firearm is going to make him into a hardcase. A bad-ass instead of a Dumbass.

      The good news is there’s a high probability his guns will be stolen from him, and that it’s a somewhat higher probability than him shooting himself, his family member or a close friend accidentally.

      The bad news is that his guns are probably going to be stolen by criminals who actually know how to use them. And that he’ll be purchasing more at full price and with the intent of avenging being robbed in the first place. Which will increase the odds that he’ll ignore any safety rules and wind up shooting himself, a family member or a close friend, with the added increased risk that he’ll take his firearms to yet another public gathering and just start shooting.

      The worse news that even if they only shoot their intended targets, they’ll be shooting Americans. Whether Savage or Limbaugh or Dobbs or Coulter or ChickenHawk Nugent agree that we are.

      That fact combined with the fact that nobody will allow them to just go ahead and take “their” country back and they’ll meet with heavily armed resistance, isn’t good news.

      They’re like a suicide bomb attack against all America and committed by Americans.

      The worst news is even though they’ll lose, so will everybody else.

    2. Pollyanna says:

      Tim, this is brilliant and I hope is is widely circulated. Rag Blog readers who have contact with family members and others who may be confused about the basis of the “Tea party”‘s appeal should be sent a link.

      I do think there’s another factor at work, however, and fueling the anger we’re seeing at its most extreme among some older whites. While some of us have been rebelling, protesting, and otherwise underachieving all these years since the 60s, they have had their collective noses to the grindstone, doing what they were “supposed to do”. They didn’t ask for “all those civil rights” to get along; hard work and servility would do that if you were careful, and lucky. Now they’re looking for their reward and guess what; ha ha, there is none; they’re no better off than those of us, the Grasshoppers of society, who have played our fiddles and danced in the sunlight and the mud and gone on the dole. And so, belatedly and for the wrong reasons (fear of other Ants), the Ants are aroused.

    3. I was thinking just the other day, about all the things people have said about the tea parties. How often they have had to eat crow and come up with a new theory of the day. And yet, we are growing faster now than we did just a year ago.

      If I could compile all of those explanations, predictions, attacks, excuses, etc in an interesting and funny way, I might become a published author and make more money.

      When I do I will make sure to credit Mr Wise for his rather fantastical, yet wrong, explanation.

    4. Brother Jonah says:

      So who exactly are you pointing those guns at? I mean, if you believed the TeaBag line, the TeaBag represented the majority of America. Course, that 70 million votes against your racist agenda kind of tells a different story, and of course, wanting to terrorize those of us who disagree by the display of weapons. Doesn’t actually work, does it? Meanwhile, if you were the majority, you’re pointing those rifles and carbines and pistols at Your Own Party.

      That’s as Retarded as Sarah Palin.

    5. Brother Jonah says:

      and, let’s face it, if you don’t want to actually shoot people, then displaying guns is nothing more than a group of cowards with guns, trying to convince people that they’re not cowards.

      It’s a really stupid move. Trying to run a bluff, I mean, and with guns. Of course at times some of them will actually get enough “courage” to pull the trigger, like Adkisson did at the Unitarian Church in Knoxville. Usually, though, it’s when they’ve been thoroughly convinced that Liberals are easy targets, and won’t fight back. Something the non-fighting TeaBag “leaders” like Beck and O’Reilly and Hannity and Limbaugh tell them.

      Paid professional liars, and when they had opportunities to actually fight, they chickened out. Draft Dodgers. Ted Nugent the same way. Make money off supporting a war with everything but their physical presence and of course, without wanting to pay the taxes to “support the Troops”. Kind of a sorry bunch.

      You know why TeaBags and Republican’ts like to try to co-opt Jesus, like they own the copyright to His name? …because it’s the perfect and ultimate Republican ethos, have Somebody Else Die for their profit.

    6. Anonymous says:

      When I do I will make sure to credit Mr Wise for his rather fantastical, yet wrong, explanation.

      If you really believe that, Lance, you are truly remarkable (in the worst possible way).

    7. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

      That just happened in AZ. People of color angrily demonstrating against a white governor and her policies. Your predictions didnt come true. There are no white thugs intimidating people of color. There are tea partiers planning to demonstrate and project their point of view. That is democracy, in case you are not familiar with it.

      Perhaps you and the anonymous commenter above will be kind enough to appologize to those you have slandered? No? Didn’t think so.

    8. richard jehn says:

      Let me get this straight, Lance. You want apologies from the folks who are calling you out for your complete misunderstanding of this article, is that correct? The demonstrations in Arizona have been peaceful, no pistols on hips, no rifles slung over shoulders, no angry rhetoric about the overthrow of government. But you are equating the peaceful anti-SB1070 demonstrations in Arizona to the gun-toting, racist anger coming from your colleagues in the TP movement? And as for your insulting remark about democracy, you are the one who might use a lesson in semantics.

      As for an apology, you are frankly owed no such thing. You blatantly ignore the facts, you insult, harrass and harangue folks with whom you disagree endlessly on this site, and you expect an apology because we point out your blindness? As I said, you are remarkable in the worst possible way.

    9. Fair enough Richard. I appreciate your input. Perhaps you should check out some of the peacful bottle throwing immigration demonstrators on YouTube. And carrying a gun is not an act of violence, its as much a right as a public protest.

      As for harassing you and your cohorts, I am one small voice with a different viewpoint than the flood of uniform, and often hateful and mean spirited thought written here. But, none the less, I will take my leave. Thanks.

    10. Anonymous says:

      To the Extremist:
      Re: “I will take my leave.”

      If you really mean it, you won’t see this, but just in case you do decide to come back and look-


    11. I played a round of Mr. Wise’s game called “imagine”. Here are the rules as he listed them Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure — the ones who are driving the action — we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead.

      Ok, so far so good. I imagined a highly placed federal official openly and without any remorse saying they undertook the duties of their office based on skin color. Directing whites to be serviced by their own kind … Blacks serviced by their own kind. Diligence in carrying out the duties of the office in direct propotion to skin color. Whites get a certain effort. Blacks get a different effort. Racism and discrimination on clear display.

      Then I didnt have to imagine. It came true in Mr Obama’s “post racial” administration. Its a very short clip. Listen to it unless you enjoy the sand around your head keeping you in your safe little make belive evil whitey world.

      I did some “finds” in this blog. I found plenty of references to Tea Bagger racism, Arizona Crackers, and White Privilege. Funny thing, I didnt find any references to Hispanics calling for the occupation of white business during the AZ SB1070 fracas. I certainly didnt see any references to racism at the gasp dare I say it . .NAALCP.

      I think I figred out why. The left in general and Thorne and his merry little band of bloggers in particular are a bunch of hypocrites!

    12. Anonymous says:

      It’s funny, but this pic was cropped. The original pic shows that the guy in question was indeed a black man. You guys make me laugh.

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