A letter of mine appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer today. Sweet placement, too, as I'm batting leadoff in a Sunday section:
I'm not affiliated with the Tea Party movement, but I am taken aback by how quick its opponents are to dismiss it as a band of racists. Now E.J. Dionne has joined the chorus, albeit in a muted fashion (Apr. 20).
If about 11% of Americans are African-Americans, and about 6% of Tea Party supporters are African-Americans (as a Gallup poll tells us), then I really don't see that as a huge disparity.
When pressed for evidence that the Tea Party comprises 2010's version of segregationists and would-be slave-owners, its opponents either repeat anecdotes of racial slurs (mostly unsubstantiated) or point out all the white faces -- as if "Caucasian" is now automatically a synonym for "bigot." Meanwhile, African-Americans and Latinos who align themselves with the Tea Party movement, or identify themselves in any way as conservative, receive even more vitriol, being called "Uncle Toms," "Oreos," "coconuts," and "traitors." Isn't it a tad wrong to suggest that all members of a race should think the same way about everything?
Calling one's opponent "racist" used to be the last, desperate step when losing an argument. Sadly, it's become the first.
I've gotten some good feedback, but, of course, not everyone's a fan:
"Your letter simply underscores the frightened and frantic politics of the far right wing...[B]y the way, if you believe that the far right wing fringe of the Tea Party movement is not motivated by racism, you are either not paying attention or you are ridiculously obtuse."
The more intelligtent readers will, no doubt, take note that my letter wasn't about any far-right wing OR far-left wing of any movement; it was about a movement as a whole. It's buoying when someone is so kind as to prove my point so soon after my work meets the public eye.