Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Are today's Black republicans fools?...or just foolish? Let's explore the idea and see where it takes us. We've all seen them lurking about on social media or paraded around the TV news circuit like prize peacocks. From the trolls in my timeline to the republican apologist-in-chief, Michael Steele, or his extreme counterpart whose hair is perpetually on fire, Dr. Ben Carson; I am perpetually disappointed in their commentary. Perhaps it is partially the fault of the media, that we find the idea of a Black republican so societally shocking that even if their take is absurd; we stick a microphone in front of them and plop them on the primetime tube. My twitter feed is full of trolls which are seemingly so proud to say, 'I'm a Conservative. I'm not like you other Blacks.' Sadly, I've learned what my beautiful wife knows well since she is a teacher. You can't educate anyone who doesn't have an ear to hear or earnest desire to learn. What I mean by this is that I've burnt myself out on trying to educate such ignorance because I find that those kind of people don't want a conversation, nor are they open to an honest conversation on the issue. Now, I just block those idiots and keep it moving. So let's agree to be honest with each other from this point forward and those readers which are so satisfied with being the crystal unicorn they perceive themselves as subconsciously, that they have no desire to hear the truth about the fallacy of the modern day Black republican, can excuse themselves. Politics today have become a gang war, of sorts. Each side is preoccupied with coveting their red and blue flags, with no regard for the issues and retreating to their appropriately colored bunkers. This is why I burned my Democratic party registration 20 years ago and have been independent ever since. That's a column for another day, but let us continue. No discussion of Black republicans is valid without some historical context. These guys are all too quick to yell out, "the party of Lincoln!" with no real understanding of what they have aligned themselves with in modern terms. Let's take the long way home so we can fully understand why Michael Steele and his ilk are wrong.

First of all, the Black community has been a fairly conservative community for a very long time. Despite common stereotypes or popular propaganda, most Blacks I know were raised with very traditional values and the church was often the centerpiece of the community. That being said, there is a difference in being conservative and being a republican. Those can be two very different things. Many many years ago, long before African Americans were allowed to vote, the republican party was a very modern, forward-thinking political party. They were the party of Lincoln. In the late 1800s during the Reconstruction Era, the Democratic Party was largely filled with Ku Klux Klan members and former Confederates. The republican party was more right-thinking (no pun intended) and more apt to have an agenda for the country that wasn't out right hostile to Blacks. The great abolitionist and former slave, Frederick Douglass, worked with some republican administrations and was even nominated at a republican national convention, believe it or not. I'll bet you didn't know that GOP leader of the early 1900s, Theodore Roosevelt, is the father of the Progressive movement. Yes, he was seen, at times, dining in public with Blacks and often included them in his agenda--except Southern Blacks. Right or wrong, he regarded southern Blacks as corrupt and untrustworthy. Remember, republican president Dwight Eisenhower. He was the first president since Reconstruction to enforce the desegregation of public schools. Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock High School during the integration crisis there. Ike also signed civil rights legislation in '57 and '60 to help protect our right to vote. The GOP are a friend to Blacks right? They were. What changed? Enter Kennedy, LBJ, and Barry Goldwater. After Eisenhower, the campaign between JFK and tricky Dick Nixon was a pivotal moment. The Black vote was something the republican party should have been able to count on; and many Blacks, including NAACP leader Jackie Robinson, wanted the party of Lincoln to continue its good relationship with the Black community. Nixon had other plans. Whatever his personal motivations, Nixon placed little importance on the participation of Blacks and the associated Black vote. In fact, even at the behest of prominent figures like Jackie Robinson and Harry Belafonte, Nixon refused to reach out to MLK and the Black community. JFK did not hesitate in building inroads with King, the Black vote went to JFK, and the rest is history. After JFK was assassinated, LBJ was obsessed with pushing through the civil rights act. He turned out to be on the right side of history, but when the Democrat signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, LBJ famously said to an aide, "We [Democrats] have lost the South for a generation." Turns out it was much longer than that, but opponents of civil rights for minorities spared no time getting to work against our community. Barry Goldwater, one of a few GOP senators against civil rights for Blacks, started massing a coalition of like minded republicans together with newly converted republican, ex-Confederate Democrats like Strom Thurmond and rebuilding the republican party. As is often the case, a party needs something or someone to coalesce around after a significant defeat. Unfortunately for the Black community, the new republican coalition's tenants included Goldwater & Thurmond's contempt for us and only solidified in the following years with Nixon's Southern Strategy, Reagan's 'states rights' southern push, and RNC chair Lee Atwater's soliloquy on how to say 'n-word' without saying 'n-word'.  Is the GOP's right turn apparent yet? Thanks to some healthy animus from tricky Dick and the fervor of newly nighted Dixiecrat republican converts, the GOP went from the party of Lincoln to a group of charismatic neo-conservatives with a smooth talking front man in Reagan and a slick chairman in Atwater advising on how to race-bait without explicitly race-baiting. This is, at best, an abbreviated history lesson; but worthwhile for those Blacks who are politically minded and want some historical perspective.

Knowing the history of the GOP and their modern machinations, one can understand why my patience are relatively short for those who stand on Lincoln and Douglass's back and point to a political party that hasn't existed since Eisenhower. Here's the awkward part of this column where we have to continue the discussion with half the audience realizing what they once believed so fervently is just plain wrong. There's two reactions available. An intelligent response would be to say, well, I'll vote my conscious on the issues and untether myself to a party that is not always aligned with my interests or the interests of my children or community. Sadly that's not the response I usually get. Most often, I hear something along the lines of, "I refuse to research or verify the party's history or any of what you've said because I don't want to feel that I've been an uninformed patsy, so I'll choose to believe that you're just wrong." That is akin to confronting the statement of "2+2=4" by saying, "Hey, that's your opinion!" and following it with a chorus of la-la-la's and fingers in your ears. Anyway, there has been this crowd of Black republicans lagging behind these new Goldwater conservatives trying to stay in 'the party of Lincoln' that left them a long time ago.

In September of 1982, Ronald Reagan met with the National Black Republican Council. It was an organization made up of many of the country's wealthy and conservative Blacks that wanted to agree with then, republican president that the desires of the Black community aligned with those of the country as a whole. It was a mutual admiration dinner to discuss how low crime, small business investments, and local political involvement in the Black community would be a boon for all of us in this great country of America. This was both a noble effort and an admirable goal of 80's Black republicans. Most in attendance of the dinner agree that Reagan was cordial and in absolute agreement. So what happened policy-wise? Nothing. Whatever Reagan's personal feelings on equality, Lee Atwater was still a high ranking Reagan aide and he had a re-election campaign to win. Reagan kicked of his '84 campaign with his famous 'states rights' speech in Mississippi. Meanwhile, the best TV campaign in the history of the country put the actor back in office. He went on to further offend the minority community by vetoing the anti-apartheid bill and beginning the war on drugs, which many saw as a war on impoverished Black communities. Why is all this relevant? While the republican party was basking in the success of Reagan, what happened to that group of National Black republicans hoping to make inroads with the party? For reasons that remained unexplained, the National Black Republican Council was dissolved; and GOP outreach to African Americans fell off sharply. What sprung up in it's place was hardly equivalent. Today we have the National Black Republican Association which seems to specialize in indoctrinating Blacks to believe the GOP need not focus on any specific Black issues, racism is best left unmentioned, and poverty is the problem of lazy people. Does that sound absurd? Yes. Yes, it does. The point I'm making here is that they've gone from a national organization with wealthy Black members from all over the country to a small fringe group that makes wild crazy statements every election cycle against Democrats. Attempts to nudge the GOP away from the Goldwater mentality that reassured so many southern bigots have been successfully thwarted and the party has made it clear that it's current ideology is worthwhile for as long as it wins elections.

Let me be clear. There are no smoke in mirrors hidden among the facts. Jackie Robinson's account of the NAACP's efforts to woo the GOP in the JFK v. Nixon race is documented. Barry Goldwater's new coalition of libertarian conservatism combined with Dixiecrat racists is historically verifiable. Lee Atwater's southern strategy and subsequent interview with Alexander Lamis in which he proudly details his 'n-word' strategy is well documented.  Is it wrong for some Blacks to hold on to an out dated notion that the republican party has any interests at all that intersect with the minority community? Perhaps not, but to what end? There is a reason Blacks left the party en masse. I can hear rebuttals out there in the ether to the tune "Democrats aren't as responsive on Black issues as we'd like either". Maybe, but that's a false equivalence. JFK was responsive. LBJ was responsive. Jimmy Carter was responsive. Clinton was responsive. The takeaway is that the Democrats may not be a perfect party, but there are enough sympathetic ears that we are able to make some gains that benefit the Black community. There is no equivalent ear within the GOP, which has spent the last 40 years stoking the fires of southern bigotry to win elections. What would happen if Michael Steele denounced the bigoted rants of Rush Limbaugh? Where was Ben Carson when Rick Santorum said, "I don't want to make Black people's lives better.."? What does Condi Rice do when she sees Tea Party rallies with depictions of Obama as a witch doctor or a monkey? Has Colin Powell ever publicly denounced politicians like Chris McDaniel for defending the Sons of the Confederacy? Can one be a true member of an organization that is outright hostile to you and your community.

Now we've come full circle to the original question. Are today's Black republicans fools...or just foolish? Think of it another way. Imagine there are two cabs available to take you to work every morning. One cab picks you up, drives you in to the city, and drops you off a block from your office. The other cab makes you walk a block and a half because it won't pick up in your neighborhood, drives you as far as it can until another fair presents itself, and always punches you in the face as you leave. Sound silly...so does the term 'Black Republican' to any one who knows US history.