In it, author Tim Wise posits an interesting conundrum: what would the nation's reaction be if the TEA Party Protesters actually were predominantly black?
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.The imagery created by Wise's words shows just how hypocritical these TEA Party Protesters would probably be if such an event were to happen. Yes, there are a few African-American TEA Partiers, but their numbers are few at these rallies. A rally of thousands of African-Americans would cause hysteria among many of those who purport to be defenders of liberty.
And yet, in Wise's scenario, they wouldn't be doing anything different than the TEA Partiers. In fact, comparatively speaking, the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s, most of them peaceful demonstrations, brought about much harsher attitudes towards the movement than any of these TEA Party protests, which include speakers who openly advocate secession or revolution, who openly blame gays, blacks, Hispanics, feminists, and other minority-movements for the problems this country faces with no real evidence to back it up.
Wise ends his essay perfectly, summing up what's really wrong with the TEA Party movement today:
To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.
And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.