"Don't you think it's kind of weird that you don't see a lot of black people out here?"


Calvin Young, a 49-year-old carpenter from Florida, asked me that question during the 9/12 Tea Party rally in Washington this past Sunday. While my own answer was yes, what was more surprising was that Young, who is black, was asking it.

Young had driven in from South Florida with about 20 other members of the Ft. Lauderdale Tea Party, all of them black, to spread a mostly racial message at the Washington, DC rally: that more black people should join the Tea Party movement.

Several of them handed out leaflets bearing black-and-white photos of confederate flags and a lynching, and a headline: "Save Black People from Democrats Who Started KKK."

Promoting the website MichaelWarns.com, parts of the flyer read: "SAVE the deceived Obama&Blacks from the Progressive Democrats who started the KKK...these Democrats Call Tea Partiers racist when theya re the ones who are the slave masters endorsed by the KKK...see Democrat Sen. BYRD as the Grand Cyclops of the KKK endorsing the Democrats...The Progressives of today are putting the Tea Party into the same position as the Dixiecrats of the past...Because Blacks love their Black President I only atack wrong policies...talking to Black people, let us tell them the truth that Lincoln and the Union Army were Republicans who freed blacks from the Democrat Southern Slavery&that Democrats are the real racist with welfare Slavery policies...The Democrats are the slave masters responsible for the murder of 96 million Blacks during slavery."

Among this almost exclusively white crowd of maybe a few thousand, Young and his fellow black Tea Partiers were there to tell people that the Tea Party isn't racist and that black people have as good a reason to join it as whites.

"It's not a racist cause. In order for this to work, we need them to help us," Young said. "We need people. We can't do it alone."

So why do people say the movement is racist? And why don't more black people join? "They don't know any better," Young said. "They don't know."

Democrats, not Republicans and Tea Partiers, are the racists in the American political system, according to Young and the Ft. Lauderdale Tea Partiers who came with him.

"We have to let a lot of other black people understand the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats," Young told me. "It was the Republican Party that freed us."

Asked why he sees the Democratic Party as racist, Young cited Southern Democrats' opposition to civil rights, Republican President Abraham Lincoln, and a liberal social-welfare agenda.

"We came a long way from the civil rights movement, and that route we took wasn't through the Democrats," Young said. If Democrats "want to give all minorities and poor people handouts, what is that if not racism?...If you want to keep the same poor people oppressed, what else would you do?"

The Tea Party movement needs black people to succeed, according to Young and and another Ft. Lauderdale Tea Partiers in attendance.

"It's about good people coming together," said 

"We have to come out here and show them how the Tea Party is not racist," said Ezekiel Israel, a gregarious jazz and R&B guitarist who had come to Washington with Young's group, and who busily handed out the small MichaelWarns flyers. "I'm sure [the movement is] not racist, but only a black person can say that to another black person. So that's why we're out here," he said, calling some accusations of Tea Party racism a "trick" to keep black people from joining the movement.

Young and Israel don't dislike President Obama, per se, but they certainly don't like what he's doing.

"It's not so much that we don't like him. It's his policies. It's the people around him," Israel said. "He can't help it. We hope he moves to the right."

According to members in attendance, the Ft. Lauderdale Tea Party has 200-300 members, 60-70 percent of whom are black. And they're planning to keep coming to out-of-state Tea Party rallies to stay visible and spread the message that black people have a home in a movement that, at present, is overwhelmingly white.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.