Opponents have branded the tea party as a group of racists hiding behind economic concerns—and reports that some tea partyers were lobbing racist slurs at black congressmen during last month’s heated health care vote give them ammunition.
But these black conservatives don’t consider racism representative of the movement as a whole—or race a reason to support it.
Angela McGlowan, a black congressional candidate from Mississippi, said her tea party involvement is “not about a black or white issue.”
“It’s not even about Republican or Democrat, from my standpoint,” she told The Associated Press. “All of us are taxed too much.”
Still, she’s in the minority. As a nascent grassroots movement with no registration or formal structure, there are no racial demographics available for the tea party movement; it’s believed to include only a small number of blacks and Hispanics.
Some black conservatives credit President Barack Obama’s election—and their distaste for his policies—with inspiring them and motivating dozens of black Republicans to plan political runs in November.
For black candidates like McGlowan, tea party events are a way to reach out to voters of all races with her conservative message.
“I’m so proud to be a part of this movement! I want to tell you that a lot of people underestimate you guys,” the former national political commentator for Fox News told the cheering crowd at a tea party rally in Nashville, Tenn., in February.
Tea party voters represent a new model for these black conservatives—away from the black, liberal Democratic base located primarily in cities, and toward a black and white conservative base that extends into the suburbs.