At the Tea Party 9/12 rally, a libertarian-minded student from UCLA took the time to snap a photo of each sign present. As the Washington Post reports, she found little in the way of racism:
Ekins photographed about 250 signs, and more than half of those she saw reflected a "limited government ethos," she found -- touching on such topics as the role of government, liberty, taxes, spending, deficit and concern about socialism. Examples ranged from the simple message "$top the $pending" scrawled in black-marker block letters to more elaborate drawings of bar charts, stop signs and one poster with the slogan "Socialism is Legal Theft" and a stick-figure socialist pointing a gun at the head of a taxpayer. [...]
Only 5 percent of the total mentioned the president's race or religion, and slightly more than 1 percent questioned his American citizenship.
Of course, whether or not Tea Partiers love racist signs is a little beside the point; the question of racism has less to do with whether Tea Partiers hate minorities -- I'm sure they don't -- and more to do with the ethnocentric origins of their beliefs. Put another way, are Tea Partiers opposed to government spending out of allegiance to an anti-government ideology, or are they opposed to government spending because it goes to the "wrong" people?
My guess is that it has a lot to do with the latter. Across the board, American political opinions are tied to racial attitudes in very intimate ways; whether we realize it or not, race plays an important part in whether we support redistributive policies and how we identify ourselves on the political spectrum. Tea Partiers are no different. A majority of Tea Partiers express racially conservative views -- 52 percent say "too much has been made of the problems facing black people -- or hold racially tinged views, like the 34 percent of conservative Republicans who believe Obama is a Muslim. Additionally, researchers at the University of Washington found that Tea Party supporters are more likely to be "racially resentful" than those outside of the movement.
Beyond that, race has always played a big role in the far-right of American politics. That the newest iteration of the far-right holds racially problematic views shouldn't really come as a surprise.
-- Jamelle Bouie