Bait taken

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, July 16, 2010 20:44 EDT
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As you no doubt are aware, there’s been a dust-up as of late due to the NAACP rearing up and saying what’s obvious, which is there are whole buncha racists in the Tea Party movement. In perhaps the weakest effort in the entire history of efforts to disprove a claim, spokesperson for the Tea Party Express Mark Williams put up a “satirical” letter in response. He took it down after it was revealed that this was some racist shit, but Ta-Nehisi has reprinted the whole thing for our collective edification. Here are some samples:

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!….

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Many of us have been saying for a long time that the screeching about taxes and big government from teabaggers is, in many cases, racist to the bone. The reason Republicans argue that we can cut taxes on the rich while reducing the deficit is because they expect their followers to fill in the rest with, “By stopping welfare payments to those (fill in racist stereotype of the day).” The base chooses to believe that the federal government spends most of their money on social spending for people who could have jobs but choose not to, and Republicans let them believe that because it means they can continue to push fiscally irresponsible policies and leave Democrats to clean up the mess. And those of us who make this argument are often met with skepticism from people who believe that it would be hard for teabaggers to be that stupid and racist and short-sighted. But Williams makes it clear that all the coded language about overspending is meant to convey exactly that stupid message.

The racist tea parties also demand that the government “stop the out of control spending.” Again, they directly target coloreds. That means we Coloreds would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?

So, why did the NAACP go ahead and call out the racism in the Tea Party, knowing full well how much pearl-clutching and nay-saying it would cause? Ta-Nehisi has a great point about it:

It’s been asked in comments, a few times, what good has come of the NAACP’s resolution. I would not endeavor to speak for anyone but myself when I say that I owe the NAACP a debt of gratitude. I have, in my writing, a tendency to become theoretically cute, and overly enamored with my own fair-mindedness. Such vanity has lately been manifested in the form of phrases like “it’s worth saying” and “it strikes me that…” or “respectfully…”

When engaging your adversaries, that approach has its place. But it’s worth saying that there are other approaches and other places. Among them–respectfully administering the occasional reminder as to the precise nature of the motherfuckers you are dealing with. It strikes me that this is a most appropriate role for the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

Agreed. A lot of very public teabaggers are always on the verge of dropping terms like “welfare thugs” that somehow manage to escape being called out as straight out racist and giving in to their deep desire to just let loose in public with the language they cheerfully share in private. I’m sure the folks at the NAACP realized that a little shove might actually make that happen, and if that was their intention, then the plan worked probably better than they even expected. It’s sort of peculiar to want someone to just come out with such a putrid pile of racist nonsense, but if your options are limited to hearing this shit and hearing this shit through coded language that everyone politely pretends isn’t the steaming crap that it is, well, I know I prefer the former. Because, like Ta-Nehisi said, sometimes you have to remind everyone exactly who you’re dealing with.

And because it will invariably come up in comments, no, I’m not saying 100% of teabaggers are racist, though I have to point out that the racism-friendly ones have to outnumber the others by far for people to walk around with some of the signs they carry at protests without any fear of social shaming. I grasp that a small percentage of them may be so stupid or so sheltered that they don’t grasp the racist underpinnings of the non-arguments and insinuations about who gets welfare, who defaulted on their mortgages, whether or not Obama has a right to be President. But I don’t think the too-sheltered-to-get-it people are the majority, not by a long shot.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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