Weak Uni-Tea

This weekend the city of brotherly love was host to the first Uni-Tea rally, a feeble and failed effort designed to show that the Tea Party embraces people of all ethnicities. 

A group of several hundred at most — with very few people of color — congregated across from Independence Hall, giving speeches about God and rampant government spending, the staples of most tea party events. But this one also had numerous “racial” references to plantations, hair, and rap music. In the words of Uni-Tea party speaker Deneen Borelli, “you’re [the crowd] not smart enough to make decisions for your self; they [government] want to put everyone on the government plantation.”

For added excitement, Andrew Breitbart made an appearance, probably hoping to dodge any process servers from Shirley Sherrord’s lawyer.

The tea partiers want their detractors and supporters to think of America and their movement as a colorblind society. If that really is going to happen, they have some work to do within their own ranks. At Uni-Tea, speakers used the rhetoric of race and religion, and promoted rebellion against the government — all with blatant use of racial allusions. Speakers compared the tea party movement to the civil rights movement, talked about Marcus Garvey and hair, and of course the perils of big government.

Pastor Bill Devin, who claimed he was the original P. Diddy, a card-carrying registered Democrat, and a member of the NAACP, peppered his remarks with colloquialisms designed to show his bona fides, including “somewhere up in heah” and “Ya’ll go make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here” from the Rapper DMX. There was even a rap group that performed, Hi Caliber — ostensibly to show how hip the Tea Party movement is.

Speakers consistently made racial references, all while claiming the Tea Party is not racist. Breitbart’s speech referenced Mary Frances Berry, but managed to artfully dodge speaking about his hack editing job of Shirley Sherrod’s speech. He then went on to discuss his own conversion experience to conservatism by watching the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings. In Breitbart’s world, the media was at fault for “skewering” Thomas, who was an American hero for working his way through the ranks. Somehow, though, Breitbart’s speech did not move me to bow at the altar of the Tea Party.

With all the back-biting, name calling, and posturing regarding race and who is really racist, I really couldn’t see anything different about the Uni-Tea group than the Tea Party movement writ large. The crowd was mostly white, the rhetoric was loud, and speakers consistently referenced race and racism while offering rudimentary repudiations of racism. 

What I am interested in, however, were the plentiful references to religion. It makes me believe that the tea partiers have a tacit understanding that in order to gain a more inclusive movement, lip service will need to be paid to religion in order to bring the “poor benighted masses” at the mercy of the government along. If that is the case, they have a lot of missionary work to do.

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