Most of my friends and family are convinced that the Tea Party Movement in “racist”. It is clear that this, for the most part, is media driven, as the Democrat Party does a good job mastering and winning the propaganda warfare.
However, the question should be asked, is the Tea Party movement in any way responsible for some of the negative perceptions many Americans have of it?
I have attended and/or spoken at over 40 Tea Party rallies over the past three years, in the south, north, and east part of our Republic.
I think I have just a little insight into the nature of is strengths and weaknesses.
Being “racist” is not a weakness of the Tea Party movement.
In my evaluation, I don’t personally rely upon either conservative or so called liberal media, but will take both sides into account, for no side is always right and neither is always wrong.
My own view is that I agree with the basic principles of the Tea Party movement, which I have always made clear.
However, the Tea Party did not create those principles and do not have a corner on the market in these principles. There are many Americans who do not want to be aligned with the Tea Party, who are Independent and Republican, for example, and are no less American or “constitutional”.
I think one of the greatest weaknesses of the Tea Party movement is extremism. Not from a Constitutional or policy perspective, but from a relationship perspective. There is a sort of “We are the truth, the way, and the light” mentality that is pervasive.
I meet a lot of type A personalities in the Tea Party who are rather poor at empathetic listening, building relationships with those who may disagree with their perspectives, and are unskilled at knowing how to navigate against the opposition without being given unto bitterness and vitriol.
Few Tea Party activists/leaders seem to understand that when you want to lead the lost, you have to love and serve the lost. You cannot lead who you will not serve and you cannot serve who you do not love.
I meet few who know anything about loving others unconditionally.
I will never forget that, when Romney won the primary, I was disgusted. For a period of time, I didn’t think I could vote for him because he is a Mormon and, in retrospect, I will never violate my own conscience again to fall in line with a political agenda or candidate or party.
Nevertheless, I ended up not only voting for Mitt Romney, but writing a ton of articles and doing a series of interviews promoting his candidacy directly in urban communities, taking a relentless beating from even friends and family (See: Peace through Strength), as I was one of the few across the country who concentrated my efforts in the inner cities.
I had property destroyed and was even physically attacked, hit with an Obama sign. Yet, there were Tea Party folks who started out with me, who were intolerant and vicious when I did not immediately jump on the Romney bandwagon.
Their message was “We have to rally against Obama”. My thing was that I had to decide whether I could vote for this guy, Mitt Romney, even as I knew I could not vote for Obama no matter what.
They had no respect for my religious conscience and some tried to publicly malign me right away.
Many Christians felt as I did and many stayed home in the end. I did not. Yet, I had to not only deal with my own conscience, but I had to deal with the vitriol of others who alleged to be on the same side I was on, as I tried to work my way through it.
So if Tea Party folks would do me like that, in spite of the sacrifices I had clearly made and the stances I had taken in defense of the Tea Party (on radio, television, news articles, etc), it was ten fold worse towards those who needed to be educated on the other side.
The fact is that you simply cannot take a position, when the lost rejects you, that: “You are stupid anyway” and that is how most in the Tea Party project themselves who I have encountered.
Too many, furthermore, are paternalistic and dismissive.
One of the things I have always tried to model is patience, empathy, and respect even towards those I don’t agree with. I have not come close to “arriving”, for only Jesus has, but I am confident that, over the years, I have developed a skill set to effectively communicate with Americans across all economic and ethnic/cultural lines.
I have tried to share those skills and the lessons learned with Tea Party friends, but few would really listen. I mean REALLY listen. They too often think that a crass, abrasive style is the only way to go and I happen to disagree. Frankly, I don’t think it is an effective approach.
I know Jesus to be of truth, but He was also full of grace.
I don’t believe the Tea Party movement is a “godly” movement, but is a secular movement based upon ideal political principles that are, in fact, Constitutional.
However, the moral/spiritual condition of man is at the core of our ills and to deal only with the law and to ignore the spirit, will never be successful in righting the wrongs caused by the heart and spirit of man.
I think that this is another weakness of the Tea Party movement. It is not a Christian movement and is unable to really spark a great awakening. It respects the history of the Black Robe Regiment, but rejects the practical application.
So no matter how right I may be and how wrong, for example, my neighbor might be about an issue, if I demean, insult and verbally attack my neighbor because he or she believes things that about me, due to my views, that are untrue, then all I do is cement my neighbor in those perceptions and cut myself off from ever being able to win my neighbor to the light.
That is another weakness of most Tea Party activists I have encountered. They don’t tend to think with foresight when it comes to responding to attacks from the so called left or others who might not understand where they are coming from..
I guess what I am saying is that Tea Party activists/leaders are often extremely toxic, albeit absolutely right in ideas about the way this nation needs to be governed. This toxicity is what many are reacting to. Not just the propaganda of the media.
Among my family and friends, many are Democrat and none are getting ‘freebies” from the government. That kind of commentary, for example, fosters stereotypes and breeds resentments. That is not a public policy discussion, but is an insult that paints a broad brush.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with the principles and ideas of the Tea Party as it relates to the Constitution and Public policy. The problem is few seem to be effective at dealing with people on a personal level, particularly those who do not line up with their ideas and expectations.
Thus, I can see why many have the perception that it is divisive and hateful, even as many who make these accusations are indeed hypocritical, in that they are also divisive and hateful.
In any event, Tea Party leaders and activists would benefit greatly from debating, and critical thinking classes (to learn the skill of empathetic listening and proper responses rather than being reactionary), as well as discipleship classes. And yes, I have met Tea Party activists who I knew were racists.
However, that did not make me go out and declare the Tea Party is racist. I did call them out and called on other Tea Party activists and leaders to weed them out, but most would refuse to hold these people accountable.
I had one Tea Party leader tell me, “When Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are held accountable by the left, then we can talk.”. So the last thing I will point out about its weaknesses is that there is an absence of vetting and accountability.
The Tea Party movement is not racist. Period, but it does not do a good job of vetting itself and making sure it silences those buffoons who come among them with a different agenda than reducing the size of government. Well, my long ‘two cents”.
Here is an article I wrote in response to the vicious attacks from the Congressional Black Caucus that were launched against the Tea Party some time ago: http://www.nationalcenter.org/P21NVSwimpTeaParty91011.html.
If I had it to do all over again, I don’t think I would take a stand in that manner for them, for I learned over the course of time that I was fighting for people who did not have MY back, but would stand with me only if I was 100 percent in agreement with all they said or did. That to me, is another form of tyranny. Control.
I am not interested in being the puppet of either the Democrat Party or any other kind of party. The sense I got, in the end, is that they only wanted a Black Conservative to use in response to Black liberals because they felt they could not say certain things. Some are more than willing to play that role. That is not who I am.
I want to know I am fighting with and for people that actually care about me as a person, in agreement and disagreement. They rarely had interest in me personally or in my family. Not one ever invited me to church or to their house for dinner to fellowship, etc. There was no real unity centered around each other that I experienced.
This is where, in my opinion, the so called left far outdistances the Tea Party movement. They are more people oriented and really tend to rally around each other personally and not just politically. They tend to deeply care about each other. So, while they rarely seem to understand the role of government in their good intentions, they do have each other’s back more often than not.
So I ultimately, for the sake of my personal well being and health, I began to distance myself and, since that time, I have a great peace of mind since doing so and me much more effective in building relationships, as well as reconciling relationships, especially in my own family.