Earlier this week Frances Fox Piven was invited to speak at Messiah College's American Democracy Lecture. Since Messiah College is my alma mater and I was unhappy with the invitation I decided to attend so I could see exactly what she had to say and how the school was going to handle the event. To nobody's surprise Ms. Piven made a plethora of controversial claims and assertions.
Among the most controversial of her claims and assertions were her opinions on the Tea Party movement. During her time at the podium Piven asserted at least twice that racism is, at least, one of the factors driving the Tea Party. The crowd, which included a group of Tea Partiers, was clearly unhappy with Piven calling the Tea Party racist.
In fact, the first time that Piven said racism motivated the Tea Party the crowd audibly rebuked her with one man even shouting out "as long as he follows the constitution we don't care what color he is". Here is video of the exchange with audio of the man calling out from the crowd enhanced for clarity:
Undeterred by this push back from the crowd Piven later told a questioner that Herman Cain's Tea Party support was rooted in a desire to be perceived as less racist than they are.
When pressed by a student, as you can see at the end of that video, Piven back tracks and says that she doesn't believe the entire Tea Party is racist or that race is their only motivation. That reversal in tone from earlier in her speech took an even sharper turn at the end of the night. So much so that she ended her remarks with a compliment for the Tea Party.
After a questioner pointed out that the standard for a movement's success Piven had earlier set up in regards to the Occupy Wall Street movement had already been met by the Tea Party Piven agreed. She went so far as to say that the Tea Party is an "authentic" movement.
It was a rather stark transition from racist to authentic. All because of some rebuking from the crowd, which was ideologically diverse to Messiah College's credit.