This article integrates theory on contentious movements and racism to develop what we call the “stigma neutralization model,” which explains how activists challenge stigmatizing identities in order to build a positive collective identity. Using original ethnographic research, we examine the response of a local Tea Party group to charges of racism. If a social movement is seen as racist, their political efficacy may be damaged. By analyzing backstage identity work, we illustrate that the strategies involved in distancing both activists and the movement from charges of racism reflect broader cultural understandings of the U.S. as being a post-racial or “colorblind” society. Our stigma neutralization model illustrates how activists deny, deflect, and distract from charges that activists are racist, thus maintaining and reproducing racist ideology, while reconstituting both individual and movement identities as unspoiled and racially tolerant. We discuss the implications of our findings for antiminority majority social movements more generally.
DENIAL, DEFLECTION, AND DISTRACTION: NEUTRALIZING CHARGES OF RACISM BY THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT*
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Malaena J. Taylor, Mary Bernstein; DENIAL, DEFLECTION, AND DISTRACTION: NEUTRALIZING CHARGES OF RACISM BY THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 1 June 2019; 24 (2): 137–156. doi: https://doi.org/10.17813/1086-671X-24-2-137
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