In Arizona local Tea Party groups decided to hold a rally at the Arizona State capitol on April 15. While you would think that this rally would be about spending or taxes or something like that, it was instead dominated by the message of bigotry and white supremacy. When the Tea Party decided to invite the controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the anti-immigrant extremist State Senate President Russell Pearce to be guest speakers, they had immediately and inherently created a platform for bigotry.
Arpaio, who is currently under two federal investigations for racial profiling and for abuse of power, has made headlines in the past for taking a friendly photo with a staunch Arpaio supporter and known KKK member. He is also someone who once said that “it’s an honor to be compared to the KKK.” Not to be outdone, Pearce also has a photo with a staunch supporter and known neo-Nazi activist by the name of JT Ready. Seen at various events and in numerous photos with Pearce, Ready also currently runs an extremist militia group on the border.
As you may also remember, Pearce was the key sponsor of SB1070 (Arizona’s “papers, please” law passed last year) and more recently he tried to push through legislation that would have eroded the 14th Amendment, criminalized children of migrant parents, and denied migrant families access to housing, education and healthcare. In fact, the legislation Pearce was trying to push through was seen as so extreme that many members of his own party were forced to vote against him.
Even if ties to white supremacy were not enough to motivate the Tea Party to stay away from Pearce and Arpaio, you would think that recent investigations into fiscal corruption would have been. In a recent Maricopa County investigation, Arpaio was found to have misspent 99.5 million dollars of Arizona tax payer money. In addition, Pearce was recently implicated in a political corruption scandal involving the Fiesta Bowl and thousands of dollars of free trips for the family, hotel costs, golf course memberships, and tickets to sporting events. Many of the free gifts that Pearce received he did not report, which is a clear violation of Senate ethics and could potentially be the equivalent of criminal behavior.
However, instead of distancing itself from this corruption and hate, the Tea Party chose to validate it by inviting Arpaio and Pearce as guest speakers. At first glance, this seemed like an act of ignorance and a major contradiction from the values of the Tea Party, but after you hear the comments made by one of the Tea Party protestors at this Rally, you realize that the values of the Tea Party and the values of Pearce and Arpaio are one in the same. There is no contradiction.
During a shouting match between protestors, a passionate tea party member forgot to hide his bigotry behind the ruse that is fiscal responsibility. Instead he angrily proclaimed that “the U.S. has a higher standard of living from Mexico because it is populated by white people.” The statement speaks for itself. It is not candy coated, masked or decorated. It is raw racism, and it is the part of the Tea Party that the Tea Party does not want you to know about.
As downright disgusting as it is, this is not new to Arizona rhetoric unfortunately. Hateful language and racist rhetoric is not only alive and well, it is often politics as usual. The actions and the language used by Joe Arpaio and Russell Pearce clearly serve the agenda of white supremacy and they are significant contributors to the cause. Thanks in no small part to them, Arizona has also seen a major growth in hate groups, hate crimes, and white supremacy membership in recent years. So the Tea Party should feel right at home here, to be who they truly are.