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Author and activist Tim Wise, an expert on white supremacism, writes a “thought experiment” titled “Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black.” He begins by writing, “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.”
Armed 'Black Protesters' Descend on Capitol - His first example is a scenario where “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?” Wise is referring to a recent rally of white gun rights enthusiasts that “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.”
Congress Members Accosted by 'Thousands of Angry Black People' - His second example: what if white Congress members were accosted 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?” Wise is referring to a recent tea party rally in which a white protester spat on a black lawmaker (see March 20, 2010).
Rap Artist Issues Crude Insults to President - His third scenario: “Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: ‘He’s a piece of sh_t and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Wise is referring to comments made by white conservative musician Ted Nugent about President Obama (see August 21-24, 2007).
Mainstream Black Political Commentator Employs 'Overt Bigot' as Senior Official - Fourth scenario: a prominent mainstream black political commentator employs “an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization…” This person had frequently taken part in black separatist conferences, and had once assaulted a white person while using racial slurs. What if that prominent black commentator and his sister, also an employee of the organization, “defended the bigot as as a good guy who was misunderstood and ‘going through a tough time in his life’.” Wise asks if anyone would accept the situation, and would the commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? He is referring to a recent situation involving the white conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, an MSNBC employee who until recently employed an overt racist as the executive director of his organization The American Cause (see June 20, 2009).
Black Talk Show Host Makes Variety of Racially Charged Statements - What if a black radio host told his audience that the only way to get promoted in a white president’s administration is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had endorsed a white presidential candidate due to “racial bonding,” or blamed a white president for a school-bus fight involving black and white students, or told his listeners that he does not want to kill all conservatives, but would leave a few as “living fossils… “so we will never forget what these people stood for.” These are things that white conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has said about President Obama and political liberals.
Black Pastor Threatens Armed Insurrection - What if a black pastor and former soldier said that 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.” Tea party leader Stan Craig, a South Carolina pastor, said this at a recent rally (see April 17-18, 2010).
Black Radio Host Promises Revolt, Calls for Blacks to 'Hang' Conservatives - What if a black radio host told his audience that blacks would revolt if the government continues to be dominated by the rich whites who are “destroying” America, called Christians and Jews non-humans, and suggested that the best thing to do with conservatives was to “hang ‘em high?” Radio host Michael Savage has made these comments about Muslims, liberals and the Obama administration.
Black Bloggers Smear First Family with Racial Slurs - What if a black liberal Web site called the daughter of a white president “typical redneck trash” and a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds?” This is what posters at FreeRepublic.com said about President Obama’s young daughter Malia—except they called her “ghetto trash.” What if black protesters called for the lynching of their congressional enemies? White conservatives did this in recent months, Wise claims.
Conclusion - Wise concludes: “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.… [This] 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 sh_t [whites] do, on a daily basis.” (Wise 4/25/2010)
Progressive author and columnist Laura Flanders interviews author and activist Tim Wise, an expert on white supremacist ideology and movements. They begin by discussing President Obama’s incremental, “race-neutral” approach to solving racial problems in America, agreeing that Obama tends to believe that racial problems can best be alleviated by economic solutions. However, Wise says, “racial disparities that are caused by racial discrimination—by race-specific injury—can’t be solved with race-neutral analysis or race-neutral policy.” Wise says that long-term studies show that the single biggest reason why support for social safety-net programs has dropped so steadily in America over the last few decades has been the perception that those programs will be abused by minorities, a perception Wise says is shaped in part by racist beliefs. Ironically, that lack of citizen support, which has translated into a lack of governmental support, means that when white Americans need those programs themselves, they do not get the services they require; in the last decade, many more whites have begun to suffer economic plights, and they now need the programs they have largely opposed. Wise says that the liberal strategy of ignoring racism from the right, pretending it does not exist, and/or trying to “rise above it,” just gives the implied racism of conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and many “tea party” activists that much more influence and power. The more the idea of racism is openly addressed, Wise says, the less effective racial overtones and implications are in politics. Historically, Wise says, white Americans strongly support federally funded social programs as long as they do not perceive minorities as being the primary beneficiaries of those programs. After 1971-72, he says, the media began portraying the recipients of welfare, Medicaid, and other safety-net programs as largely African-American. Before, he says, the media usually showed whites in Appalachia, for example, with whites standing in soup-kitchen lines and so forth. When the media began portraying safety-net recipients as mostly minorities, white support of those programs began to plummet. Flanders turns the conversation to the “tea party” movement, and, after citing Wise’s recent article, “Imagine If the Tea Party Was Black” (see April 25, 2010), she asks about the racism that infuses much of the tea party’s ideology and activism (see April 25, 2010). Obviously, Wise says, if tea partiers were black, “they wouldn’t be able to surround lawmakers and scream at them at the top of their lungs like petulant children.” Even if one does not accept the allegations of racial slurs and spitting that have been made against tea partiers (see March 20, 2010), which Wise does accept as true, “just the notion that a thousand white people can get around a bunch of lawmakers, some of whom are white and some of whom are of color, and scream and yell at them and tell them how to vote…” It is inconceivable that black protesters and activists could “get away with that,” he says, “without being seen as criminals.” And the idea of Arab-Americans or Latinos trying to do something similar, he says, is even harder to conceive, he says: Arab-Americans would be vilified as terrorists, and Latinos would be smeared as illegal aliens. The political impact of the tea partiers has been far stronger than anything black and other minority civil rights and political pressure groups have been able to bring to bear. “In every sense,” he says, “the tea party is able to get away with things—say things, do things, make the kinds of statements about public leaders and officials—that no group of color could ever possibly do.” (GRIT TV 9/25/2010)
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