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Alphonzo Rachel, black 'tea party' comic, rips back on black critic Charles Blow


You know that old line: "Never pick a fight with someone who buys his ink by the barrel."

Sure, it's been outdated for years now. And every day you see another example of why. Alphonzo Rachel is the latest example.

A spat is brewing between Rachel, who is a black member of the "tea party" movement, and Charles Blow, a black columnist at the New York Times.

Blow decided to attend a tea party rally in Dallas last week where Rachel participated in a skit called "Zo-bama."  Blow didn't like it and called the whole event a "minstrel show" in his widely discussed column.

That didn't set well with Rachel. At all. So, he did what you ... nowadays: You take to the Internet. Appearing on YouTube (see video below) in a clip called "The Blow Back," Rachel rejected the columnist's critique.

"Charles Blow came to our tea party so determined to find some hatred and bigotry that I guess when he didn't get some, he had to make his own," Rachel said.

Nowhere in his column did Blow say he had problems with any of the participants. In fact, the main problem with the rally seemed to be that it wasn't as racially diverse as he thought it might be.

"I had specifically come to this rally because it was supposed to be especially diverse," he wrote. And the diversity that Blow did encounter apparently wasn't good enough.

"The juxtaposition was striking: an abundance of diversity on the stage and a dearth of it in the crowd," Blow wrote.

Rachel was part of the abundance on the stage and Blow took him to task for it.

"According to his Web site, Zo, who is black and performs skits as 'Zo-bama,' allowed drugs to cost him 'his graduation,' Blow wrote. "Before ripping into the president for unconstitutional behavior, he cautioned, 'I don’t have the education that our president has, so if I misinterpret some things in the founding documents I kind of have an excuse.' That was the understatement of the evening."

That line stuck in Rachel's craw.

"He attacks my education," something Rachel acknowledges "ain't nothing to brag about. But according to him, I'm a loser high school dropout."

"He must have a lot of love for the kids in Detroit," Rachel mocked. "I mean, we're the forgotten ones that the Democrats care so much about."

"No," he said, shaking his head,  "they look down on you."

Maybe the YouTube way is the best way to communicate with Blow. Laura Ingraham had him on her radio show. That conversation went nowhere, a ridiculous pingpong match.

Ingraham asked Blow to describe the worst display of overt racism he encountered at the tea party.

Blow said he didn't encounter any.

But then what about the "minstrel show" comment?

Perhaps Ingraham thought Blow forgot what he wrote, so she reread him his line.

" 'Thursday night I saw a political minstrel show devised for the entertainment of those on the rim of obliviousness,' " she read. "Now, I like the sentence 'cuz it's well-written, but what I don't understand is what is an acceptable minstrel show then, a non-racist minstrel show?"

"That is a ridiculous question. What does that even mean?" Blow asked.

"Actually it's a good question," Ingraham retorted, "and it points out the absurdity of your column, because you would have written this column regardless of what you saw."

"Are you serious? Is that a real question?" he asked instead of answering.

"So, in other words you can't answer the question," she said.

"Is that a real question?" Blow asked again, still not answering.

Then Ingraham played back the part of both of them repeating what she had said followed up by repeating what he had said. They ended up in the same spot.

Did she ever get the question answered?

Is that a real question?

-- Jimmy Orr

The only question we'll ask is why you haven't already clicked here for Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. In fact, we won't even ask you -- so follow us at @latimestot. You can also join our Facebook FAN page here.

Photo: Alphonzo Rachel appearing on YouTube. Credit: YouTube screenshot
Comments () | Archives (2)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Ouch. Mr. Blow, as Bubba once said -- You better put some ice on it.

I'm sorry, but I believe this LA Times article was written poorly. It was difficult for me to decipher the argument. From what I could see, I am on the side of Charles Blow. His argument was that the Tea Party was intentionally trying to convince the public of its diversity by handpicking a few people out of its extrememly small population of ... See Moreminority followers to put them up on stage and entertain its predominantly White public. This is the minstrel show reference Blow makes, and it makes sense. The main attraction was a Black comedian whose skits lack substance beyond goofy antics and silly songs. In Blow's article, he says that a survey of Tea Partiers showed that they "were more than eight times as likely as white independents and six times as likely as white Democrats to think that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites". Well, Rachel was definitely supporting this view in his "Under my Bus" video despite the fact that he complains that the Obama Administration doesn't care about people like him - the poor and uneducated from Detroit. Wait - but didn't Obama save the auto industry, invest in education funding, and pass a healthcare bill that will save the lives of millions of the uninsured? So not only was his show not funny, but it was also not very smart either. Hmmm.. sounds like a minstrel show to me too.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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