"We are dealing with people who are professional race-baiters who make a very good living off this kind of thing. They make more money off of race than any slave trader, ever. It's time groups like the NAACP went to the trash heap of history where they belong along with all the other vile, racist groups that emerged in our history."--Mark Williams, Tea Party Express National Spokesperson
Question: Could there be any gift that does not keep on giving in the way that the tea bagger Palin brigades do with so much unselfish selflessness?
[Talk about a genius example of Oscar Wilde inspired wordplay, was that sentence not like wiping your behind with silk?]
Mark Williams' offering is one of those rare and priceless moments where a Freudian slip meets a psychological projection. Despite (or maybe because of himself) one of the key spokespeople for the Tea Party reveals who he and they really are as he attempts to rebut the charge that there are in fact racist elements within the Tea Party, all the while simultaneously deploying the white racist tactic of projection...what kids more affectionately call the "so I am, but what are you!" game.
Lost in the collective sigh and exhalation regarding the tea bagger's, Sarah Palin's, and the twisted Right wing populi's claim that the NAACP is somehow a "racist" organization, there is a teachable moment that has gone unclaimed by the punditry and the peanut galleries alike. The collective conservative White denial and defensiveness against what was a very measured and reasonable resolution by the NAACP was 1) a missed opportunity for the Tea Party to seize the initiative and be in agreement that the racists in their ranks should be expunged and 2) would suggest that in relief, the tea baggers seem to have a profound misunderstanding of the nature of chattel slavery in the New World.
Alternatively stated: What sort of twisted person would joke about slavery and suggest that the premier civil rights organization of the 20th century somehow profited more than the United States' slaveocracy and its bloody handed slave traders? That fighting White supremacy somehow earns money and profit in an order of magnitude greater than that earned by the perpetrators of one of THE greatest crimes against humanity? Ultimately, and this is the sickness implicit in white Conservative race baiting reactionary politics, how could one reasonably suggest that the Black Holocaust was somehow a benefit to African Americans?
To even have to write these questions seems absurd. The tea baggers, New Right, die hard conservatives, and their related ilk somehow believe that slavery was a walk in the park. Possessed of a bizarre view of American history (and drunken on a visual of happy slaves on ye old plantation sitting under the shade tree, playfully picking cotton, and eating watermelon till the sun sets), slavery is reduced to an inconvenience to be gotten over.
In the conservative imagination, race is not a variable that over-determines life chances even into the 21st century. No, racism would only go away if people of color would stop complaining. Just as the Civil Rights Movement was greeted by a white ethnic backlash that manufactured stories of white disenfranchisement and the folk fiction of signs that read "No Irish, No dogs," (a twisted equivalence game where all oppressions are somehow created equal) the New Right imagines white folks as being the new victims of Jim Crow.
What many willfully ignorant folk do not understand is that chattel slavery in the New World was barbaric. In the United States it tore a hole in our collective democracy and exposed the glaring contradictions of a Constitution that purported to proclaim freedom for all while excluding all those deemed 3/5th's of a person. With its long shadow, slavery in America has produced a legacy of structural inequalities in wealth, income, access, and opportunity that plague us to this day. The slaveocracy and white supremacy were also realities in which black bodies were counted as amongst the most valuable assets in the United States--so valuable in fact that a whole society would risk destruction in order to protect this human capital.
And not to be forgotten is the human cost of slavery--the millions who died during the barbaric Middle Passage, and the many millions more grinded under by the gears of the human killing fields of the plantation. These are anonymous and lost people, statistics if you would, for those who do not share their kinship or blood. For others, these are our lost brothers, sisters, ancestors, and kin. They are the whispers on the wind of memory and history not to be forgotten as they speak to a missing link in our connection to both the past and present.
In total, the way that some conservatives, and in particular how the New Right and the Mark Williams's of the world play these sacred dead for cheap political gain, suggests a broader crisis in political faith, values, empathy, and community that goes beyond race and straight to an emptiness of shared struggle in the face of common problems. We are a society in crisis. The tomfoolery and race baiting of the tea baggers makes this dire truth even more clear.
All in all Mark Williams, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party brigands believe that slavery was a joke, or alternatively that the enslavement of black Americans is a punchline to a political speech. As we began, you don't joke about slavery, the Holocaust, or the genocide of Native Americans. You just don't. When the New Right and its believers do so, they reveal once more a political culture that is terribly sick. For in conclusion, these neo-John Bircher racists show us all the while who they have always been. And for that we should be grateful...while also being truly disturbed.