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By Bernie Conrad
April 18, 2010

Responding to Leonard Pitts Jr.'s Indictment of Racist Tea Parties

In my last writing I heartily revealed that my experience at the Tea Party filled me with hope for America. I meant it. I thought the spirit of the Tea Party was the most America-healing event I had ever witnessed. A couple of days later I read an opinion piece in the local paper by the syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. In his column "Tea Party Anger Has Racial Tone" Mr. Pitts informs us that the prime motivating reasons for the Tea Party Movement are racism and anger. Fine, it's America, you get to voice your opinion. But, it created a turmoil in me, and when there's a turmoil, I know I have to respond, so I wrote Leonard Pitts Jr. an open letter:

Dear Mr. Pitts,

When I see that your writing has a front row center in my town's newspaper with pious platitudes on the Tea Party movement – yet get a whiff of a hunch that you probably haven't attended one – I feel compelled to respond.

You jump right in and pour the foundation for your essay by citing a poll by CBS News/New York Times. Right away, I feel the undercurrent of suggestion that I am to think of this as an unbiased and reliable source because of the name-recognition corporations. Sorry, I can't bite on that Mr. Pitts, but let's read on.

The first truism from this poll was that Tea Party supporters only represent 20% of America. It's easy to tell that the intent of this statistic is to degrade the movement as inconsequentially small. Nice try, but I disagree. Twenty is roughly the percent of colonists that went to war against the English Crown in the 1770's. The movement was hopelessly small and didn't have a prayer of winning. Nevertheless there were some nice results from that particular Tea Party crowd; and I notice, Mr. Pitts, that you - a free-speaking, liberty-believing columnist - don't object to partaking in the results.


The next item mentioned in your column is that Tea Party participants "…tend to be white men…--…and wealthier than the rest of us." Again, Mr. Pitts, with due respect, it seems that your intention here is to suggest that "white" and "wealthy" are bad things. I fell for that sir, back in the sixties, but quickly got over it. What I saw in these white wealthy Tea Partiers were war veterans, and men who had worked long and hard for their money and paid their taxes. Additionally there was a strong showing from those who are currently employed and paying their taxes. So I am perplexed - what is so undesirable about this? We don't want less of these, we want more. Let the character do the talking.

And what am I to think of the other-than-white people that I saw? What about the black lady whose sign read "I Have a Dream and Obama's Not in It!"? Others were high school age. They all looked and acted awake and aware. They were not wealthy white men and many were not over 50. They seemed to be talking up a great America like everyone else, not succumbing to outdated whining about racism.

I realize, Mr. Pitts, that the poll you are basing this on passes for truth in your world and you are just pointing out the findings. However, your Freudian slip shows when the poll declares that Tea Partiers are "ANGRY" with Washington. Why is the word angry in capital letters, Mr. Pitts? Certainly it wasn't the pollsters who capitalized it Sir, this is the technique of a propagandist. Shame on you.

There is nothing more trite than being an "I-told-you-so," but I am going to go ahead and play that card and suffer the humiliation. Mr. Pitts, before our current president was even elected, it was prophesied by intelligent non-partisan social observers that if a black man became president, it would then become a racist issue to disagree with him. Now I must ask you in all sincerity: Isn't that what has happened? Your article proves it out. I went to the Tea Party because I love my country. What I found there were others who felt the same. It was powerful – I loved it. Oops! Darn I forgot! - Pitts says it's because we're racists!

Thusly we slog through the Obama years.

So Mr Pitts, if you must see racism in the Tea Party movement, and you think it's a bad thing, then let's make a trade. I'll see if I can round up all the genuine racists in the Tea Party movement if you will do the same from another group, the voters. Would you be willing to concede that some (maybe allot?) voted for Barack Obama simply because he was black? In other words, they responded to him simply by his race and the color of his skin? Isn't that racism as well? What I'm proposing is that we get all these racists together – Tea Partiers and positively racist Obama-ites - and send the swine off to off to Siberia. Sound like a plan Mr. Pitts?

As I read on there is more jockeying of statistics to finalize one point: That if you sniff around the internet, surveys, quotes and tricky logistical questions – yes you will certainly be able to come up with the evidence that you love to hate so much – that the Tea Party movement is an angry racist rich white man's event – truly damaging to America. How different this is from the conclusion that I and many others have drawn. I found that the Tea Party was a healthy and vibrant event, full of American citizens who want nothing more than to see their country thrive - the kind of ultimate-Constitutional-spirit-at-work get together and rich expression which we need to see more of in America. Are we to imagine that because of Leonard Pitts's statistics and propaganda's that we are closet racists and don't know it?

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But don't give up yet. If you want a solid future for your children and your people, why don't you try turning off the TV and computer, getting your shoes on the ground and actually examining what a Tea Party is all about. Yes, you're right, it's about the "old America" – and the old America is the one we need to get back to. It's the old America who made us the most sought-after country in the world and it was the old America who gave you and me freedom, brother. The only question is: Are you up to it?


Bernie Conrad

� 2010 Bernie Conrad - All Rights Reserved

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Bernie Conrad was born in San Diego, CA, 1944. Attended College at University of California Santa Barbara and Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles. Served in US Army Reserves 1965 -1971. Has worked primarily at building renovation and property improvement. Has worked extensively and tutored privately in art and woodcarving.

My purpose in writing is not political or religious. I feel the time has come to enlist in the war between right and wrong. I do not claim a background of specialization other than a love of my family, my fellow man and the American pursuit of happiness. There has been an unquestionable downturn in the character and quality of life within my country - within my lifetime. I see numerous causes for this phenomenon. These causes I identify as the enemy. To speak out against them is to fight for my country. I have gotten too old for the sword so I shall take up the pen. It is a privilege to live in a country where I may do this. It is a shame to see our own citizens unaware of this blessing.

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So Mr Pitts, if you must see racism in the Tea Party movement, and you think it's a bad thing, then let's make a trade. I'll see if I can round up all the genuine racists in the Tea Party movement if you will do the same from another group, the voters.


Grants Pass