There are many good-hearted people in the Tea Party, I’m sure, who have been swept up in the enthusiasm of a cause that articulates the frustrations that have been building within them for years.
The very nature of their movement--amorphous, absent any hierarchy, lacking a clearly defined manifesto, welcoming to all disgruntled newcomers—is the source of its spontaneity, its inspiration, and what makes it so exhilarating to be a part of.
It’s also the Tea Party’s Achilles’ heel. Without rules, structure or coherent leadership, what is a legitimate representation of political sentiment can easily be infiltrated and hijacked by those with a darker agenda.
Racism—tragically--will always be tangled in the warp and weft of the American fabric. It’s the legacy of a past we’d just as soon forget, but are shackled to forever. It lurks just beneath the surface of our national discourse like a crouching beast.
We see examples of it every day right here at our newspaper’s website. The Internet, with its attendant anonymity, has given voice to those whom nobody ever bothered to listen to before, and they exercise their vocal cords with a vengeance. Even comments to our weather site, of all places, can easily degenerate into racist rants if we don’t keep an eye on them.
So the Tea Party may have a racist component, as the NAACP claims, but that does not mean that all of its adherents ought to be tarred as racists.
It’s equally unrealistic to ask the Tea Party to condemn racism within its ranks. It isn’t organized that way. Who is going to write the resolution? Who will disseminate it? Who will sign it?