Racism and the Tea Party Part II... Southern Style

"People of integrity expect to be believed, and they wait for time to prove them right." My friend Ray says this a lot, though he's not sure where it originated, and I think it's apt, considering the story of my experience with racism in the South has been met with skepticism by some Tea Party supporters in my hometown and the South in general, on the assumption I fabricated it to make trouble and create debate, because they believe racism is no longer a problem here. News accounts and corroborating witnesses prove my story, though only I know what was going on in my head while it was happening. Yes racism exists all over this country and not just in the South, but those who deny racism exists at all in the South, or deny racism is inherent within the Tea Party movement are lying to themselves or incapable of recognizing it when they see it.

It was alive and well just last Thursday night when I attended an event hosted by the Mobile Chapters of Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform and the League of Women Voters, and a Tea Party activist disrupted the discussion panel to rant about immigration reform, because he wanted laws created to, and I quote, "keep foreigners from working in our country and taking our jobs!"

I'm not sure if he thought this event was about reforming the United States Constitution or if he simply wanted a soapbox and media attention, but his ignorance of immigration laws was alarming just the same. Therein lies the biggest problem with the Tea Party movement. Ignorance and fear begets bigotry, and bigotry begets violence that escalates the longer it festers, which is why we're only seeing this now that a black man has become President.

The idea perpetuated by the Tea Party movement to "Take back our country!" from [insert non-white male here] is no more than racism in drag. The Alabama Constitution was created by a group of wealthy white male landowners in 1901 for the sole purpose of disenfranchising minorities and women. The ironic thing about this is they inadvertently disenfranchised poor white males in the process. I like to call it God's little joke.

Eventually, Jim Crowe laws were overturned by the federal government Tea Party supporters distrust and dislike so much, and desegregation was dragged kicking and screaming into our public schools, though don't despair, we Southerners are a crafty bunch and found a way around this little nuisance. Segregation and underfunding of public education in Alabama is still ensured even today, legally of course, in the form of a plethora of private schools populated mostly by white children, while most black children attend public schools. That's racism, Southern Style.

Minorities and women are still paid less in the South than compared to their counterparts in the rest of the country, and I've worked for enough businesses owned and managed by old-Mobile white money families to see firsthand black people are only hired to fill quotas, if they are hired at all. It's just a little more wacky southern-style racism people here think doesn't exist. It's subtle and never talked about out loud, and the ones who get the most offended by the acknowledgement of its existence are the ones most likely to commit the moral crime, while claiming to have black friends. Yes, for the most part, lynchings and Klan rallies are a thing of the past. The jokes are more carefully delivered, the acts cloaked into something more acceptable, but it's here and it needs to be acknowledged and discussed. Only then can attitudes be changed and true equality reached.

America is a nation of immigrants. All of us are mutts, therefore it goes against the grain of our free society to create laws to deny prosperity to those who work for it on the basis of race, language, or nationality. The Tea Party mantra of "Take back our country!" is racism cloaked in patriotism by people who can't compete, can't adapt, and no longer have the protection and security of simply being white. This is even more prevalent in the South. Their fear the world is leaving without them, their fear the federal government won't favor them and the state government doesn't have the authority, their fear the ones they have for so long been able to oppress and keep in their place are no longer willing to stay there and are therefore gaining more power, and their lack of control over these changes around them is what is driving this movement. They can call it whatever they want, justify it in whatever way helps them sleep at night, but I see the truth and it disgusts me.