It's a well-established right-wing truism that tea parties -- while they might appear to be agglomerations of overwhelmingly white people touting racist signs and grumbling about how everyone keeps talking about the problems facing black Americans -- are as diverse as America itself.
But the leaders of the movement are aware that they have a perception problem and are trying to counter the impression (which is, of course, the reality) that tea parties are mostly white. That's why FreedomWorks, the oil-funded astroturfing right-wing activist group that powers the allegedly populist movement, has launched Diverse Tea in the hopes of showing that irrational hatred of Barack Obama isn't strictly a whites-only affair.
TPM Media tracked down FreedomWorks chair Dick Armey to get his thoughts on why so many people accurately think tea parties aren't particularly diverse, and Armey showed his true commitment to diversity and tolerance by blaming it all on intolerant black people:
Armey said that members "of what the establishment calls the minority identification" face criticism from their friends and relatives if they attend tea party events -- or even come out as a conservative at all. The fear of that reprisal is what keeps them away from the tea party rallies, he says.
"The difficulties, the harassment, the intolerance the abuse that they suffer comes from -- for example, if you're a black American at our rally, your own community, your own relatives, your own family," Armey said. "So it is extremely difficult for black Americans to say, 'I am a conservative' because they get beset in the most vicious ways."
This is a popular concept in right-wing circles these days -- blaming the conservative movement's fraught relationship with minorities on the minorities themselves. Just a few months ago, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal theorized that the reason African Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats is that Democrats lie about Republicans being racists, and black people keep falling for it.
They're essentially saying: "We'd like to be more diverse, but those dang minorities are just too intolerant." It's novel, to be sure, but it might not be the most effective diversity-building message.