In the Center of Controversy

By: April 26, 2011

After two years of Tea Party activism, I’m beginning to realize I didn’t understand what I was truly capable of when this movement began. I suspect that there are many stories of such personal transformation that would interest readers of the Voices of the Tea Party series.

Case in point: I’m a shy guy and have always operated under the assumption that I loathed controversy and would avoid it whenever possible. So when I—someone as blindingly white as they come—agreed to go on an African American radio broadcast last week and talk about the Richmond Tea Party with a friendly host, but instead encountered an antagonistic one who kicked things off by asking if I supported slavery, it stands to reason that I would have panicked, lost my voice, and possibly fainted from fear.

None of those things happened, I’m pleased to report. In fact, I found myself leaning into the microphone and offering impassioned defenses of America’s founding principles of liberty (which are, of course, antithetical to slavery, despite the horrific institution’s still being allowed at the time the Constitution was adopted). And as I spoke, the strange realization set in that I was enjoying the encounter.

It did help to have three other Richmond Tea Party people with me, two of whom are African American. But I didn’t retreat from the tough questions and let the others do the talking. Rather, I found myself wanting to jump in with my thoughts.

Overall, the entire experience could hardly have gone better. I believe we surprised the host with a lot of our responses, and eventually he pretty much handed the entire broadcast over to us to make our points. In the end, he seemed to believe our sincerity (despite throwing out the obligatory charge that we’re financed by those evil Koch brothers). We even had him agreeing with us that the solutions to America’s problems aren’t going to come from Washington, but from We the People.

When it was all over, the owner of the radio station came in and congratulated us. He thought it went so well that he’s having us back soon to host our own show.

Funny that I might not have agreed to go on if I had known I was walking into an ambush. That also wasn’t the first time something like that has happened to me since joining the Tea Party. Controversy just comes with the territory. For a guy who never wanted any part of it, I sure find myself in the center of it quite often.

But that’s okay—I’m starting to like it.

Jon Wakefield is a leader of the Richmond Tea Party.

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