Okay. They never did -- that was just a figment of my optimistic imagination. But it feels a whole lot nastier these days since the Tea Party came on the scene. Signs show up at Tea Party rallies calling the president the "N" word, suggesting that our president is really in league with terrorists with dark skin, completely forgetting that his mother was a white woman who was born and bred in Kansas.
On top of that, Tea Party chapters admittedly sponsor anti-Obama billboards comparing him to some of the world's most infamous tyrants, like Hitler and Lenin.
It's clear that for those in the Tea Party who want to be media visible, their movement isn't just about taxes, the Constitution and smaller government -- some of them have a race issue. So shouldn't the leaders of that party be held accountable on some level?
It's undisputed that Tea Party members have hurled racial slurs at black members of Congress and shouted anti-gay slurs at Congressman Barney Frank. An African-American Missouri state representative was spat on by Tea Partiers at the same event. Yet, when the NAACP, the organization that has championed civil rights for people of color in our nation, called the Tea Party on the racist actions of some of its members, Michelle Malkin (let's not forget, a woman of color herself), mocked the legendary institution, calling it the "National Association for the Advancement of Coddled People."
Seriously, I have to ask -- if we, as parents, don't accept ugly name calling when our kids do it to others, why do we let it slide in the name of political free speech?
The political right is all up in arms about the NAACP resolution condemning racist actions by some in the name of the Tea Party, claiming that it can't do anything about its "fringe" members. Sorry you TP head honchos. That's like punting when your kid is the playground bully, claiming that you weren't there so you couldn't do anything about how your kid turned out that way. Parents and leaders are expected to take responsibility for certain actions, whether they were directly responsible for them or whether they turned a blind eye and just allowed them to happen.
Whether they've been invited to the "party" or not, there's clearly something about the Tea Party that's attracting those who feel there's nothing wrong with hate speech -- like a billboard that compares Obama to Hitler and Stalin. There will always be people like that and there will always be some kind of organization that either welcomes them with open arms or that at least tolerates them without objection.
As the mom of a Chinese-American daughter, I'm more tuned into racism these days because, as comedian Chris Rock once said, he's wary of the slippery slope of "accepted racism." As he put it in response to the Iraq War, first it was acceptable to hate the French, then the Arabs, then illegal aliens. He held his breath about when that acceptable racism would catch up with "blacks & Jews" because, as he put it, "That train's never late."
If you believe the argument that the Tea Party doesn't encourage its supporters in using racist signs or comparing Obama to despots, that it doesn't turn a blind eye to those who spit on black elected officials or condone anti-gay rhetoric in the name of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, it does give them a safe haven. And that's the extremely scary part.
There were a lot of people who looked the other way when African-Americans were getting lynched and when Asian-Americans were being put in internment camps. In the end, it doesn't really matter which party or organized group is going along with racism like that. In probably the only time in my life I'll ever agree with Ed Rollins, actions like that shouldn't ever be tolerated by any party or organization. Period.
Image via Greg Williams/Flickr