Tea Party activists gathered in Washington, D.C. over the weekend to protest the health care bill in advance of Sunday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The media has reported that Tea Party protesters allegedly yelled racist comments at two African American members of Congress, Representatives John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver. A protestor also shouted homophobic remarks at Representative Barney Frank, who is openly gay. The incidents are causing many to ask, “Is the Tea Party movement racist?”
Tea Party supporters have been quick to dismiss the racism and homophobia demonstrated at Saturday’s health care protests as isolated incidents. It is probably true that most people involved in the movement are not racist or anti-gay. However, Tea Party protests have attracted racist elements of the far right. Racist signs have popped up at a number of Tea Party events around the country, as have signs that seem to advocate violence.
"STAND IDLE WHILE SOME KENYAN TRIES TO DESTROY AMERICA? WAP!! I DON'T THINK SO!!! HOMEY DON'T PLAY DAT!!!" reads a sign at an April 2009 Tea Party protest in Washington, D.C.
"OBAMA BIN LADEN" sign depicting President Obama in white face as the Joker at the same April 2009 Tea Party Protest in Washington, D.C.
"OBAMA'S PLAN WHITE SLAVERY" reads a sign held by a Tea Party protester in Madison, Wisconsin during an April 19, 2009 rally.
Sign bearing the swastika at the April 2009 Tea Party protest in Washington, D.C.
"Where is the birth certificate?" asks a sign held by a Tea Party protester attending the April 2009 rally in Madison, Wisconsin. The sign alludges to right-wing consipiracy theorists belief that President Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to hold office.
"JESUS IS LORD NOT ALLAH" sign at the same April 2009 Tea Party protest in Madison, Wisconsin.
"HANG 'EM HIGH" reads another sign that goes on to list members of the Democratic leadership in Congress. Again, from the April 2009 Tea Party protest in Washington, D.C.
So is the Tea Party racist? It is important to note that the Tea Party is a decentralized movement made up of a diverse coalition of groups and individuals. However, the pictures above seem to indicate that at least some members of Tea Part movement are driven by racist beliefs. More frightening still is the call to violence that some Tea Party activists appear to espouse.