Most of the Tea Party's liberal critics are not so generous, attributing sinister motives to grassroots conservatives that are virtually non-existent. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote of a town hall protest in 2009, in which Tea Party folks were letting their voices be heard: "Instead of a multicultural tableau of beaming young idealists on screen, we see ugly scenes of mostly older and white malcontents." Is Dowd serious? Who's bringing up race here and what does it have to do with anything? Her fellow Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote of the same protesters that "they're probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they've heard about what he's doing, than to who he is," adding that Tea Party anger re?ects "cultural and racial anxiety." Obviously, Krugman has never attended any of the events on which he seems to consider himself an expert, and his and Dowd's opinions of the Tea Party reveal more about their own left-wing prejudices than that of the Tea Party movement.
Last summer the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sponsored a resolution demand¬ing that the Tea Party repudiate its "racist elements." The resolution defied all logic. Should, or would, the NAACP repudiate the "racist elements" in their midst, given the extreme rhetoric of figures like Rev. Jeremiah Wright or the voter intimidation of groups like the New Black Panther Party? Of course not. The NAACP has no control over these individuals or groups. The decentralized nature of the Tea Party means no one really controls the movement, much less possesses the ability to rein in or prevent the occasional, random extremist. An organization like the NAACP, which is structured, would be more capable of denouncing undesirable elements in its ranks than the Tea Party, given its lack of structure—though I won't be holding my breath for the organization to be doing any such denouncing anytime soon.
At a campaign event during the election a liberal reporter approached a member of my staff and asked him how it felt to be the only African American in the room. He was offended. So was I. So were most of my staff, including other African Americans. It was another case of liberals' own prejudices against the Tea Party dictating their perception of the movement as opposed to the reality at hand.
My experience with the Tea Party is that it's actually quite diverse, more so than the Republican Party. Almost every Tea Party I've been to has featured African-American speakers. At an event in Louisville there were ten speakers, and two were black. A black minister from the west of Louisville, who is a supporter of mine, approached me after the Rachel Maddow controversy in which the MSNBC host tried to paint me as somehow being against the civil rights movement due to my support of property rights (more on that later). The minister wanted to let me know that he believed the civil rights issue of our era was education. He was concerned about the high numbers of minority kids dropping out of school and that the education establishment seemed more worried about pandering to the unions than actually fixing our schools.