Yes, you read the title of this essay right. I’m a black woman who loves the Tea Party. And no this isn’t one of those “there’s a fine line between love and hate” type of things. I really do love the Tea Party.
But before you click out of this page with the speed of Usain Bolt and the furious swing of Thor’s hammer, let me explain. I’m not a follower of the Tea Party. Sarah Palin and I don’t sip on Arnold Palmers while pointing at Russia from the porch outside her Alaskan home. I just love the blatancy with which Tea Partiers are racist/sexist/everything-negative-ending-with-“-ist”-or-“-ic”. It definitely makes my job easier. Identifying racists so I can avoid them is simple when people are loud and obnoxious about their racism.
Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin I became accustomed to coded racism. Few people had the guts to curse “nigger” to my face when I lived there, but instead masked their discomfort with my hue with passive aggressive statements. “You’re so articulate” my friends’ moms would remark to me with surprise. Translation: Why are you not speaking the hippity-hop?
And then when I moved to New York to attend a liberal arts college I had to be on the lookout for ironic/casual/hipster racism. I was confronted with members of a student body (mainly white) who grew up watching Oprah, had read one half of a Toni Morrison book once in high school and went through a few mandatory diversity workshops, giving them the vocabulary that allowed them to seem non-racist without the actions to back it up. Combined with their so-called liberal upbringing, these students seemed adamant that they knew more about “the struggle” of people of color more than people of color themselves. Using their liberal ideologies as a cloak (“But I live for Karl Marx and I looked at a James Baldwin book once!”), they enacted their racism with pure confidence. “Danielle, you’re not like other black girls,” they would tell me in between sips of Pabst beer, smiling to themselves as if they thought that was a compliment. Or they would proceed to say “nigga” in front of me, counteracting my plea for them to refrain from using that word with, “But don’t you know the difference between ‘nigger’ and ‘nigga?’ When I use ‘nigga’ I’m using it like in a ‘my homie’ kind of way. I’m just trying to bond with you.” One word: ugh.
I don’t care how many words you put in front of it, ironic/casual/hipster racism is still racism.
It was disappointing because I just wanted to make new friends and get too drunk on the weekends–the American college experience and whatnot. But no, many of my classmates were too busy touching my hair without permission or using me as a justification for their racism– “I can’t be racist. Not only do I go to a liberal arts school, but I made it through two, count it TWO, Tyler Perry movies and plus, I’m friends with Danielle.”
So I’m slow to make friends, constantly anticipating and dreading the moment when my peers may reveal any sort of bigotry.
But it’s not limited to classmates, I felt this way about Lily Allen. I loved Lily Allen’s music and then she came out with her “Hard Out Here” video. She went from indie darling to just another artist denigrating black female bodies in the name of “feminism.” In the age of Miley Cyrus, I shouldn’t be surprised any more. But I was.
This “casual” form of racism is so unrelenting and unexpected (even though by now I’m jaded enough to foresee it), that I’ve considered leaving the country and returning to my homeland of Jamaica to escape its permeating presence. But in Jamaica you can’t use your smartphone to deposit checks into your bank account and Amazon doesn’t deliver there. So I’m stuck in America for now.
But with the Tea Party (and radical conservatives), I don’t have to go all the way to the South for brazen racism. From Newt Gingrich to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, their racism does not come as a surprise. They are guaranteed to be racist (or your money back). I don’t have to go through the emotionally taxing process of trying to pick up on any clues for their bigotry because it’s all out in the open. They hate me and I’m not too fond of them. Great, now I know the face of my enemy. And like they say, the enemy you do know is better than the enemy you don’t know.
And thanks to technology, I don’t only have to look to the fuckfest that is FOX News to know who to avoid and ignore. Social media helps with that. And few recent events made racists come out of the virtual woodworks faster than the Trayvon Martin trial.
During and after the trial I, like many people, was hurting. The days after the verdict coped by blasting Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Really Care About Us” and Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s “Made in America” into my headphones during my morning commute. I wore sunglasses throughout the day to hide my tears and every time I saw a black child, I mourned for their future. Then I came home from work to find my Facebook news feed ripe with people I went to school, church or just hung out with, saying loudly and proudly how Trayvon deserved to die.
In my Facebook posts I thanked racists for letting me know their true selves. And I smiled widely while I unfriended them (after screen-capping their racists posts and putting them on my blog), because now that I knew how racist they were, I would know what to expect when I ran into them in the store or at some random event. The veil was lifted.
Knowing my (racist) enemy is not just good for unfriending people on Facebook or resisting eye contact in hallways, it’s a means for self-protection and survival. Maybe if Renisha McBride’s murderer had confederate flags or some other signifier prominently displayed outside his home, she would have thought twice about knocking on his door for help. We’ll never know.
So keep it up racists. I see you.