Let’s play a game: Imagine if the Tea Parties were Black

by on April 26, 2010 · 10 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Culture, Media, Organizing, War and Peace

guns with blacksby Tim Wise

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure – the ones who are driving the action – we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Black Panther GunsImagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

guns with blacks 03Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

guns BPPImagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on freerepublic.com last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.

Tim Wise is a prominent anti-racist writers and activist in the U.S. Wise has spoken in 48 states, on over 400 college campuses, and to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. His latest book is called Between Barack and a Hard Place.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

ClubStyle_DJ April 26, 2010 at 9:38 am


Spot on article. Unfortunately those that need to read and absorb and understand its content/concept, alas will not. In defiance of that fact, I will post a link to this article on blogs, this book and that book & bird call that I frequent or am involved with.
Thanks for the insite.


jettyboy April 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm

This does put a spotlight on the media, Tea Partiers, racists, and a fundamental truth of our “free society” doesn’t it?


annagrace April 26, 2010 at 12:39 pm

I’m old enough that I don’t have to simply “imagine” a somewhat similar scenario. I just spent the past hour reading historical accounts of the Black Panthers and remembering my own experiences in the late ’60s.

” By any means necessary” didn’t play as well back then to national audiences as it seems to today. No surprise there.


Dickie April 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm

ditto Annagrace, I had the exact same hit on this article.
The uncaptioned photos in the article, I believe, were of a demonstration by the Oakland(?) Black Panthers at the state house in Sacramento . . . to demonstrate their right to arm themselves against police who were illegally repressing their community . . . I believe there was no violence that day, but soon after black panthers in Oakland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, probably other cities as well had their offices physically attacked by police. If I remember right, over 50 Panthers were killed in that late 60s period. And yes, they did no more than the open carry people do when they wear their guns to a demonstration.
very unsettling, but it is all so important for keeping a decent perspective on the reality of the real . . . and Rag, thanks for the original post . . .


annagrace April 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Dickie- good hearing from you! What troubles me is that the Black Panther movement was a response to the assassination of Malcolm X and then Dr. Martin Luther King. And the beatings and fire bombings and intimidation and murders associated with the civil rights movement. Members of the African American community clearly felt that that they needed to be able to protect themselves, their children, their homes and their churches. I understood that then and I understand that now.

I am trying to understand today however what was assassinated, beat and fire bombed in the last 16 months that can justify a segment of our population to feel that it needs to be armed and ready. What has been taken away from us? What is under siege? “Our way of life?” WTF?

I’m not buying that what we currently see with citizen militias and gun toters is justified by some perceived attack upon our Constitution served up on Glenn Beck’s chalkboard.


Peyton Farquhar April 27, 2010 at 9:23 am

If the tea bag douches would spend their time & energy targeting Goldman Sachs, et al. & their Congressional whores at the Fed, I’d have no problem with them.


kitty April 28, 2010 at 8:46 am

I was linked to this article through a liberal friend on Facebook. Having never been to your site prior to reading this article, I can only assume, based on the comments, that your audience is a rather liberal one, which is just too bad. An article like this needs national exposure.


Ernie McCray April 28, 2010 at 11:42 am

Send it to everybody you know, Kitty.


Ann April 29, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Well said, Tim. Wish I could find a place to argue with you, but I can’t. And that’s awful.


Charles February 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I would love to juxtapose the images of late 60’s Panthers with their shotguns with President Obama blowing off steam by busting clays with a thousand dollar 12 gauge at Camp David. The irony abounds.

And just as an aside, I have no problem with either image.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: