MSNBC Panel: Dem's Anti-Tea Party Email With Burning Cross An Opening To Discuss Race

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On Thursday's broadcast of MSNBC's Martin Bashir Live, a panel consisting of liberal professor Dr. James Peterson and Democratic strategist Angela Rye discuss how an anti-tea party email from Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson (D) that had burning cross for the "T" in tea party "opens the door for us to actually have the conversation" on race.

Rye said she doesn't understand "why we can't really have an honest conversation about tea party and bigotry." Rye actually blamed the tea party for making Grayson feel the need to send such an e-mail.

"They continue to promote the kind of bigotry that led Mr. Grayson to send out this particular e-mail and enable him to raise funds from it," Rye told host Martin Bashir.

"Unfortunately, sometimes that sensationalism leads to the right kind of discourse, which is for a long time now been trying to think about the ways in which the tea party and a small minority within the Republican party use the Southern strategy, play on issues of race in order to score political points," Peterson told Bashir.

MARTIN BASHIR: Angela, what do you think? Do you think Alan Grayson should apologize?

ANGELA RYE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't think Alan Grayson should apologize. I do understand the commentary around, you know, maybe he went too far. What I cannot accept, though, is why we can't really have an honest conversation about tea party and bigotry. They continue to promote the kind of bigotry that led Mr. Grayson to send out this particular e-mail and enable him to raise funds from it.

There are obviously segments of society that agree with him. If we're talking about, you know, the GOP-led or tea party-led succession plan immediately after Obama was elected to his second term, or the visceral reaction to Obamacare, or even Romney saying, 'those people and their free stuff.' There is a clear racial tinge to a lot of the rhetoric from the tea party. And there are some even within the Republican party itself, which is why someone like Judge Carlo Key put out an announcement saying he's leaving the Republican party to become a Democrat. So there are some clear discussions that we need to have to his last point. But, yeah, there is definitely some bigotry there we need to discuss.

BASHIR: Professor Peterson, what's your reaction to what Alan Grayson has done?

JAMES PETERSON: I won't -- I don't know if he should apologize or not. I think what's interesting is that this is a sensational ad. But it does open the door for us to actually have the conversation that people have been talking about. Unfortunately, sometimes that sensationalism leads to the right kind of discourse, which is for a long time now been trying to think about the ways in which the tea party and a small minority within the Republican party use the Southern strategy, play on issues of race in order to score political points. If you think about the history of populism in this nation and the ways in which race has been used to sort of fragment poor white folk from poor people of color, it seems to me that the rhetoric of the tea party has been coded that way.

And so while it's very, very difficult to always pinpoint that, this kind of ad helps to draw more attention to it. But any time we're talking about states' rights, any time you think about the ways in which they were racialized the whole conversation about entitlements, things about the 47% and so on and so forth, you know, when you talk about secession for some of these states in the south, when you have a number of different -- people running for president, using racially-coded language like food stamp president and all this other stuff, the n-word rants, all of the things that came out of that suggest to us that there is a there there, Martin. This is a racialized discourse that undergirds the tea party's rhetoric, and at the end of the day, it is these kind of ads that help us get access to the folks who aren't paying attention to the subtle nuances.

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