Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Whites Only Tea Party?


A photograph in this week’s Economist shows an actor dressed in a tri-cornered hat and colonial garb attending last week’s national Tea Party convention, surrounded by a sea of white faces.

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, who led the roster of speakers, lamented the fact that citizens who couldn’t even speak English or spell the word “vote” sent a socialist to the White House.  Tancredo didn’t mention that President is black, yet his tirade against “multiculturalism” and his call for a return to the kind of literacy tests that disenfranchised African Americans in the Jim Crow South spoke for itself.

While the blogosphere ponders just how racist the Tea Party counter-revolution really is, historians agree that the original American Revolution was anything but. Every school child knows that Crispus Attucks, the first patriot to fall in the Boston Massacre, was a black man.  But most don’t know that  African Americans were present in nearly every major battle in the War for Independence. The Continental Army was probably the most racially integrated up until the 1950’s, when Harry Truman officially de-segregated the armed forces.

And while I am anything but a linguist, Americans in the colonial period spoke Dutch, German, French, Swedish, Spanish, a variety of African dialects and dozens of Native American languages as well as English.  In a document titled  “Colonial Irish Immigration to North America,” Jerry Kelly observes:

English spies and Tories reported back to their English masters that "Irish is as commonly spoken in the American ranks as English," which thereby puts English speakers at about 30% of the Continental Army once you count in the Gaelic-speaking Irish from every state; the German-speakers from Pennsylvania and Virginia; the Dutch from what had been New Holland (Long Island, northern New Jersey, the Hudson Valley, and the Mohawk Valley); the French of the frontier and Louisiana; the Finns and Swedes of what had been New Sweden (parts of Delaware and New Jersey), the Spanish of what had been Spanish Florida and Louisiana, and our Algonquin and Iroquois allies. Anybody who had a serious grudge against the English went into rebellion, and that was a lot of people. Anglo Saxons and their language were a minority. The Continental Army was multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and ready to welcome the likes of Lafayette, Von Steuben, Kosziusko, and others as valued officers even if (or because) they barely spoke English or didn't speak English at all. English was regarded as the language of the enemy - Tories and Regulars alike.

That may be stretching a point.  But Tea Party nativists who want the nation to “return” to its English-speaking, Euro-centric roots surely misunderstand the racial and linguistic diversity that the American experiment has welcomed since its very beginning.

That diversity, which extended hope to all races and manners of people—not a phony homogenous “Tea Party” of Sarah Palin look-alikes—constituted the real American Revolution.

12 comments:

Pinky said...

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What do y9ou expect from an extremist group the purpose of which is to move the electorate toward the right? If there is only a one percent move, that will affect the outcome of the vote. It's an old, old, old strategy of all political parties known as the Saints, Sinners, and Save-ables paradigm. It works much better for pulling voters to the right.
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Brad Hart said...

So what are you saying? The GOP is embarking on a crusade to convince the electorate that the sky is falling when it's really not? Surely the liberals would do no such thing. I guess all that "George W. is a Hitler-esk Nazi" talk was just innocent banter and had NOTHING to do with trying to convince the electorate to vote for the left the next time around!

bpabbott said...

I find it a poor turn of events that the Tea Party is leveraging prejudice to gain political clout.

The movement has points I agree with, but they'll alienate myself and others if they seek to elevate some citizens above others on the basis of ethnic/cultural/religious affiliation.

It appears to me that the Tea Party is twice violating Jefferson's advice below.

"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." Thomas Jefferson

p.s. I recall someone mentioning this quote recently, but don't recall who ... my apologies.

Brian Tubbs said...

As a disclaimer, I'm not affiliated with the Tea Party in any way. But I still find this post/article to be really over the top. To argue or imply that the real agenda of the Tea Party is to keep racial minorities down, promote white supremacy, and bring us back to the days of Jim Crow is just absurd.

Brad Hart said...

I am no fan of the tea party either. In fact, I am so sick of partisan politics (on both sides) that it's made me loathe turning on my radio/television these days. This is one of the reasons why I love this blog. We try to avoid extremist, uber-partisan nonsense, which is why I find this post so disturbing.

This is a clear low blow. I agree that the tea party is annoying and I wish they'd go away, but I also think the same of the "green" crowd. Lame partisan extremists are just so predictable and annoying aren't they!

And most importantly, their views and agendas don't need to be present here at American Creation. Let's resist the urge to become a Glenn Beck/Michael Moore blog.

Pinky said...

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The only fans of the Tea Party movement are the gullible who buy into simplistic concepts. So, it's not a matter of principle; but, one of strategy.
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Politics runs on game theory. It's all about winners and losers.
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Think of a teeter totter and moving weight ot one end or the other. The further away from the fulcrum, the more weight is applied.
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It's a very simple strategy to understand.
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Anonymous said...

The Continental Army was multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and ready to welcome the likes of Lafayette, Von Steuben, Kosziusko, and others as valued officers even if (or because) they barely spoke English or didn't speak English at all. English was regarded as the language of the enemy - Tories and Regulars alike.

From 1941-45 the Waffen-SS was also very multi-lingual and multi-ethnic.The last sentence seems so absurd I have no idea what he's talking about. Did any of the Founders attack the English language in any of their writings?


I guess they would have done it in Latin or Greek.

King of Ireland said...

" Tancredo didn’t mention that President is black, yet his tirade against “multiculturalism” and his call for a return to the kind of literacy tests that disenfranchised African Americans in the Jim Crow South spoke for itself.


While the blogosphere ponders just how racist the Tea Party counter-revolution really is,"

I am so sick and tired of any type of back to the Constitution or states rights movement being labelled racist I want to scream. "Multiculturalism" is prevalent in the schools and really is a cover for NCLB socialism.

With that said, I taught my kids about Jim Crow laws and how state rights were used in conjunction with literacy tests to keep the southern plantation system alive well beyond when slavery ended. In fact, in rural FL it goes on today.

ALL branches of the government are charged with protecting individual rights. This includes the states. Jefferson and Madison themselves believed this a crafted the VA and KY resolutions in 1798 to use state sovereingty to curb national usurpation.

The 10th amendment was written for a reason and the idea of the states checking the power of the national government through nullification is not racist. In fact, multiculturalist ideas that hold back the majority of kids to ensure that the ones that do not care are not "left behind" is about as anti American as one can get.

I have taught the poor of the poor and this mentality cripples them for life because they expect things to be given to them. I have never done more lying than on grade day to make sure my grades did not have too many blacks or latinos failing. If they were I was gone. Lie or get fired. What a fraud!

Brian Tubbs said...

Revolutionary Spirits,

Do you put your posts in bold on purpose? Or is it some kind of formatting error?

And, please, if you continue to blog here, don't throw the race card around. Again, I'm not a Tea Party person at all. But painting the movement with the kind of broad brush you've done in this post is really offensive. With respect, it cheapens the very important issue of race.

bpabbott said...

Regarding the race card, I think Brian makes a good point. Until the Tea Party activists raise the card themselves, I think it improper to promote suspicions to accusations.

Eric Alan Isaacson said...

When President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court, Tom Tancredo denounced the centrist jurist as a member of La Raza, which he characterized as "a Latino KKK without the nooses."

Now Tancredo is being cheered at Tea Party events as he calls for the return of literacy tests, which he says would have prevented Obama's election. There's no nuance to Mr. Tancredo's remarks -- he clearly desires to keep members of racial minorities from voting.

And y'all have any trouble seeing that the Tea Party movement, if not racist to its core, is a movement that welcomes and cheers open bigots?

Lord help us.

Brian Tubbs said...

I'm no Tancredo fan. I'm not even that familiar with him. All I'm saying is that it's improper to broad brush the entire Tea Party as racist on his account.