While the the American public at large varies in its level of outrage over U.S. government spending levels, over the past week, the physical appearance of Tea Party protesters served as a point of fixation for commenters describing their points of view from every part of the ideological spectrum. The overarching thesis of every paid mainstream commenter, in rough paraphrase, has been “I am not a racist; the people who disagree with me are racists. This validates my conclusions about the level and direction of federal government spending.”
These types of conflicting arguments float around either (1) pointing our the aesthetic homogeneity of the Tea Party protesters or (2) referencing the presence of ethnic minority participation in Tea Party protests in order to expose the previous dynamic as spurious or, daresay, racist unto itself. This common practice by detracting and promoting onlookers is deeply ironic, because, for the most part, virtually all of them claim to espouse a society that is colorblind. Moreover, semantic disconnections complicate this entire discussion: Some view “racism” and “prejudice” as separate, the same individuals claiming that “racism” against an ethnic group generally more economically advantaged is a myth and that an economic quotient must be in place before the application of the term. Others apply racism to any kind of racial prejudice. For the sake of this discussion and the motivations of most mainstream (read: paid) commenters, the term “racialism” will take the place of ethnic prejudice, whatever might be the historical circumstances that influence class structure and demographic information. (This is not say that, however, that these are unimportant.)
Statisticians, such as Tom Schaller at FiveThirtyEight.com, have attempted to filter through a relatively small data set in order to discern the level of racism, if any, present at Tea Party rallies.