What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Does the Tea Party Movement "Open Doors" to Discrimination?

July 14, 2010, 11:00 PM
3447473218_16ec086ac3_b
Yesterday the N.A.A.C.P. approved a resolution censuring the Tea Party movement for racism within its ranks. Cited in the resolution were "signs and posters intended to degrade people of color generally and President Barack Obama specifically" as well as verbal and physical attacks on black congressmen.  Tea Party supporters were quick to deny the charge of racism, including Sarah Palin, the de facto leader of the movement.  "I am saddened by the NAACP's claim that patriotic Americans who stand up for the United States of America's Constitutional rights are somehow 'racists,'" she wrote in a Facebook note.

This question of racism has dogged the Tea Party movement since it emerged as a political force in early 2009.  Former president Jimmy Carter sparked an uproar last September when he said attacks against President Obama were motivated by racism—attacks which originated largely from Tea Party rallies.

Charles Postel, historian and author of "The Populist Vision," told Big Think that while racism may not be the driving force of the Tea Party movement, there is "no question that it opens its doors wide to those who do not like black people." He cited the "birther" movement, many of whose members are part of the Tea Party. Their challenge to Barack Obama's eligibility to be president is "clearly based on the color of his skin," Postel said. "No one asks for John McCain's birth certificate, and he was born in Panama."

The Tea Party movement is part of a tradition of conservative movements that, in order to increase its political power, have embraced fringe, and potentially racist, groups, said Postel. He rejected the term "populist" to describe the Tea Party, likening it instead the American Liberty League of the 1930s, which emerged as a conservative reaction against Roosevelt's New Deal. This group, he said, advocated the "same exact slogans as we see now": narratives about the "forgotten men and women who made America strong" and "ordinary folk" opposed to the corrupt elites.

The League disbanded in 1940, but the same sort of discourse reemerged shortly after World War II with the John Birch Society. "The John Birch Society wasn't interested in race," Postel insisted. "It was mainly concerned about corporate taxation and labor laws, but in order to build a political coalition they had to be very savvy about linking up with the segregationists." In the same way, the Tea Party movement is not a monolithic organization but rather a collection of disparate groups that share some common beliefs. The Tea Party supporters carrying signs equating President Obama to Hitler and denigrating minorities may not make up the bulk of the movement, but they certainly have gotten the most media attention.

And while there may be diversity in priorities amongst the Tea Party supporters, there seems to be little diversity when it comes to political affiliation and race. In a recent Big Think interview, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey characterized the Tea Party as an "extremely big tent of small government conservatism, which has Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Evangelicals, people of all stripes and color and religious orientation." But polls say quite the opposite: 8 out of 10 Tea Party supporters are Republican. And only 6% of them are black.

So is the Tea Party racist? Well, that may be too facile. Benjamin Jealous, the N.A.A.C.P. president and recent Big Think expert, acknowledged in his statement yesterday that they were not condemning the entire movement. But there are certainly those within the Tea Party who must be purged from the movement before it can be considered a legitimate organization interested in elevating political discourse in this country.
 

Does the Tea Party Movement...

Newsletter: Share: