Friday, July 6, 2012

Republican Racism Example #59: Kentucky Tea Partiers Sell, "Yup, I'm A Racist" T-Shirts


As Tommy Christopher points out at the Mediate.com website, Tea Partiers don’t do irony very well.  The Kentucky Tea Party tried very hard to make a tongue-in-cheek joke, though, at rally for the group July 3, 2011 and during this year’s pre-July 4 conclave in Lexington, selling t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, “Yup, I’m a Racist” on the front.  A list of reasons why the right-wingers feel they are being accused of racism is listed on the back.  

Among the reasons the t-shirt creator thinks the right-wingers are unfairly accused of white supremacist thinking is that they supposedly:

“ . . . support the Constitution
   . . .  support free speech
   . . . support the right to bear arms
  . . .  support the Bill of Rights
   . . . support Capitalism
    . . .  support No permanent bailouts
    . . . support closing borders
   . . . support our military
   . . . support the Tea Party
    . . . support Jesus Christ as my savior”



The Kentucky Tea Party booth selling, "Yup, I'm A Racist" t-shirts at a July 3, 2011 Lexington gathering.  Note the Fox News corporate sponsorship.  (Photo from http://wonkette.com/448772/kentucky-tea-party-sells-patriotic-yup-im-a-racist-fourth-of-july-t-shirts).


There are several goofy things about this list. First of all, as Christopher notes, none of the issues mentioned on the back of the t-shirt has anything to do with why people think Teabaggers are racists (except maybe their highly selective concern about illegal immigration from Mexico).  It was George W. Bush, a Republican, who pushed for the bank bailouts. The first four items repeat themselves – the right to bear arms and the right of speech are mentioned in the Bill of Rights which are part of the Constitution.  Each aspect is mentioned as if they are separate items. I’m hoping that the Tea Party sorts know that the Bill of Rights is in the Constitution, but given some of their other misunderstandings of that document, I’m afraid that’s wishful thinking.

Christopher’s reaction to this t-shirt bears repeating:

“The t-shirt . . . includes a Top Ten Straw Man Arguments for why some accuse the Tea Party of racism, including gems like ‘I support Jesus Christ as my savior,’ a curious inversion of that relationship. The shirts might have some resonance if they included things like, ‘Because some knuckleheads dressed the President as a witch doctor,’ or ‘Because most of us are white…just like a Code Pink rally’ (For more, see http://www.mediaite.com/online/video-interview-with-kentucky-tea-party-yup-im-a-racist-t-shirt-vendor/)



A closeup of man wearing the "Yup, I'm A Racist" shirt at the Kentucky Tea Party Rally in 2011.  (Photo from http://wonkette.com/448772/kentucky-tea-party-sells-patriotic-yup-im-a-racist-fourth-of-july-t-shirts).


Christopher, unfortunately, implies that the left has exaggerated the degree to which the Tea Party is racist.  Christopher chides the left for “tarring the entire movement based on the actions of a relative minority.” Christopher, however, includes in his post a video of a newspaper columnist interviewing the people running the Kentucky booth who admit that they are not worried about preventing illegal immigration from Canada (the point of origin for about 6 percent of undocumented workers), perhaps because Canada is seen as a “white” country, as opposed to Mexico. 

This blog has provided several reasons why the accusation of Tea Party racism is true.  For instance, there’s the extraordinarily high percentage of Tea Baggers who believe, in spite of the mountain of documentary and anecdotal evidence to the contrary that Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, is a secret, illegal alien from Africa.  A 2011 poll showed that 45 percent of Tea Partiers still held on to this ugly racist myth, as opposed to a still-astoundingly high 25 percent of all Americans.  (For more, see http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20056061-503544.html).  

The stubborn insistence that Obama was born in Africa, in spite of the repeated presentation of his Hawaiian birth certificate, even in the so-called long-form, stems from the white supremacist notion that a black man cannot legitimately be president of the United States.  (See my earlier essay, “That Whole Stupid ‘Birther’ Thing at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-29-that-whole_28.html). 

The Republican Party is dominated by the Tea Party in Deep South states like Alabama and Mississippi, where a shocking percentage of Republicans believe that interracial marriage should be illegal – 21 percent in Alabama and 29 percent in Mississippi (12 percent and 17 percent of Republicans in those states, respectively, were undecided about “miscegenation.”  See my post “Those White GOP Voters in Alabama and Mississippi” at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/03/republican-racism-example-35-those.html).

One national tea party leader, a right-wing hate radio host, Mark Williams, suggested in a internet posting that slavery “had been a great gig” and referred to African Americans as “coloreds.”  (See my post, “Making Fun of the ‘Coloreds’” at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/03/republican-racism-example-49-making-fun.html).  A Republican Tea Party leader in California, Jules Manson, called for the murder of Barack Obama and his “monkey children” in another blog post.  (See “A California Republican Says Murder The President And His ‘Monkey President” at http://republicanracism.blogspot.com/2012/02/republican-racism-example-25.html).  

And, of course, signs at Tea Party rallies regularly depict Obama as a monkey or an ape, or have the president’s picture decorated with phrases like “Monkey See. Monkey Do.” (See a collection of racist Tea Party signs at http://likeawhisper.wordpress.com/anti-obama-protest-signs/).   This nonsense happens too often, and the other Tea Partiers are too indifferent to this explicit racism, for this to represent marginal sentiment within the movement.

The Tea Baggers selling the “Yup, I’m A Racist” t-shirts also belie their claims of non-racism with other products sold at their Lexington rally booth.  Another t-shirt sold at the Tea Party rally booth stupidly proclaims, ‘Everything I Need to Know About Islam, I Learned on 9/11.”  Which is kind of like saying, “Everything I Need to Know About Christians, I Learned During the Holocaust” or “Everything I Need to Know About Catholics and Protestants I Learned in Northern Ireland” or “Everything I Need To Know About Europeans and Their Descendents I Learned From the Transatlantic Slave Trade.”  You won’t, of course, find those t-shirts at a Tea Party rally because the hostility among Tea Partiers to Islam, a religion with a billion wildly diverse adherents worldwide, has less to do with the religion’s supposed tendency towards violence, but because most Muslims are seen by American whites as people of color. (See http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/07/06/991960/--Yep-I-m-A-Racist-Tea-Party-Tee-Shirts-Now-with-a-side-of-Islamophobia).

That anti-Muslim t-shirt also displays another ugly aspect of the modern Tea Party-dominated Republican Party: its intellectual bankruptcy.  The modern right is astoundingly incurious about the world, whether the topic is science, other religions, or the history of other peoples.  One atypical incident, the 911 attacks, are all the happily ignorant Tea Party crowd needs to know about 20 percent of the world’s population. 

In their heart of hearts, Tea Partiers suspect they can’t win a argument on logic.  Hence, Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin’s constant repetition of the phrase “lock and load” referring to political campaigns (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marty-kaplan/gabrielle-giffords-shooting_b_806232.html) or another Tea Bagger heroine Sharron Angle’s reference to “Second Amendment remedies” as a “cure” for the “Harry Reid problem” in her failed 2010 campaign against the Senate majority leader (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/16/sharron-angle-floated-2nd_n_614003.html). 

Tea Baggers love talking about using guns against their political opponents because they know they are losing the argument on issues like gay marriage and multi-culturalism on factual grounds and have only violence and bullying left as weapons.  Hence, another Tea Party product sold at the Kentucky rally proves the movement’s pathetically proud anti-intellectualism. 

The same booth with the anti-Islamic and the “Yup, I’m a Racist” t-shirts also sold stickers with a reference to Psalms 109:8, which reads, “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.”  The next verse in Psalms, by the way, reads, “May his children be orphans and his wife a widow.”  Just like Sarah Palin lied, claiming that putting gun sights on the Congressional districts of vulnerable Democrats like Gabby Giffords in Arizona carried no threat or incitement to violence (Giffords was later shot), some Republicans have dubiously claimed that the citation of this verse by right-wing activists just refers to the hope President Obama’s days in office will be cut off because of electoral failure, not death. 


<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> The variety of products sold to right-wingers emblazoned with "Psalms 109:8", which some use to pray for President Obama's death.  This verse and the next read: "Let his days be few; and let another take his office.  Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."  (Photo from http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2009/11/19/70223/pray-obama-psal/). 

That what Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal incredulously claimed when he sent an anti-Obama email blast with the verse in question in January of this year.  (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/20/mike-oneal-obama-email_n_1218601.html).  Teddy bears, t-shirts, and bumperstickers featuring the “imprecatory prayer” have been hot sellers among rightwingers.  (See http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2009/11/19/70223/pray-obama-psal/).   The argument that is simply an innocent prayer for Obama to lose the election has been thoroughly undermined by the public sermons of Jim Ammerman, a leader of far right-wing Christians who have been praying for the president’s doom, citing the verse in Psalms, since 2008. According to the Talk2Action website:

“Ammerman's more recent statements include a ‘suggestion’ in his September 2008 CFGC newsletter that the four democratic senators who were then candidates for president -- Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and, of course, Barack Obama -- should be arrested and executed for voting against making English the official language of the United States. He has also advocated armed violence against law enforcement officials.” (For more, see http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/3/23/10542/1792/).

Since the Psalms 109:8 bumpersticker is just part of a general right-wing embrace of extremely violent rhetoric, perhaps it is not specifically racist, even if it is aimed at an African American president in a country with a long and tortured history of white violence against blacks.  That doesn’t make this bumpersticker any less scary or the Kentucky Tea Party’s claim that the “Yup, I’m A Racist Bumpersticker” is ironic any more believable.




Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

1 comment:

  1. The Tea Party has pretty much hijacked the Republican Party here in Michigan, too. I have a hypothesis that Tea Party politics and racism are strong across the old Rust Belt as well as in the South.

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