The Miseducation of Republicans and the Black Community

Herman Cain
Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain

Over the weekend I met a Black conservative. I’m not sure if he is a registered Republican, Democrat or Independent but he is by all means a conservative. His family refers to him as “Obama hater.” I thought he was fun to talk to. It’s not often I’m able to spar with a person of my ethnic background but of differing political views. (I long for the day to talk to Herman Cain.) Our conversation, and all his reasons he would not vote for Obama, made me think about the Republican party’s constant overtures toward the Black community. Whether genuine or strictly politically motivated matters not, but their consistency is at the very least admirable.

In 2008 Michael Steele was positioned as the Republican answer to then Senator Obama. In 2010 Republican Allen West was elected to the House representing a South Florida district and a face of the Tea Party. Now in 2012 Allen West faces re-election, Utah’s Mia Love hopes to become the first Black Republican woman elected to the House, and Deneen Borelli is the new outreach director for the Tea Party group, FreedomWorks. Consistency at its best. But is it worth it?

Historically, Blacks voted Republican as the party of Lincoln. Southern Whites voted Democrat and were known as the Dixiecrats. This all changed in the mid 20th century when Civil Rights would not go away and a Democratic President was the first to decide to do something about it. Since then Blacks have voted Democrat, educated Whites have voted Democrat and the Republican party has become the party of the Confederacy and blue collar workers without degrees. A party preserving southern values, evangelism, and money hoarding.

Of the three values Black Americans could hold the key to Republicans winning over minorities. Many Blacks are devoutly religious. Even if as young adults not practicing a specific religion many of us were raised in a church that even in a rebellious state to organized religion we can’t shake the hold of hell and brimstone, damnation and sin. Evangelism is what Black folks are known for. It’s in Negro spirituals still sung today. It’s evident in the broadcasts from the mega churches of T.D. Jakes and Creflo Dollar. The sermons of Juanita Bynum and Marvin Winans.

But for some reason religion and politics don’t mix when it comes to the Republican party. It sounds good; tax cuts, living the American dream by working hard for it instead of taking a handout, not paying a higher load of taxes to take care of those who haven’t reached your level of wealth and affluence and making everyone in the country pull their own weight by eliminating entitlements. But this message doesn’t always resonate in the Black community.

Is it because without a handout we know we would not be where we are today? Or is it because of the few handouts we received we cannot put all of our faith in the White republic; the American dream?

The Supreme Court will soon decide the fate of Affirmative Action in the Fisher v. University of Texas case. The decision could either uphold Affirmative Action or signal its end in a country where opportunities look equal in EOE clauses but are decidedly unequal in the racial make up of board rooms and business offices. Former Republican Presidential Candidate Herman Cain is against affirmative action as is one of the deciding members of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas. Both say they reached their level of personal and public success solely on their own merit (and maybe a little bit of nepotism).

While Thomas and Cain’s meritorious success is dubious considering the years of their upbringing, it is naive for them to believe through all the problems this country has been through with race when it comes to getting jobs all’s fair in the market place. Beyond this naivete is proof merit means nothing when race or suspected race is a factor.

Affirmative action is still very much necessary. It is necessary until the moment we stop saying first before modern day Black accomplishments. Take Mia Love for example. She hopes to become the first Black woman Republican ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. While she may understate the historic importance of her election in interviews it is no doubt on her mind just as it was on President Obama’s mind when he was elected as the nation’s first Black President. Their stories are American stories. They could only come true in America. But at the same time they have also only been able to come true because of the small steps taken by others before them who endured refusals and lack of acceptance and were only tolerated because the law said so.

Republicans may have started off as the party of Black folks, and they may even win over a few more minorities every year with their hardline message of “do it yourself” and “do it for you and nobody else.” But they must go back to the values that made them appealing in the first place by coupling the message of working hard for the American dream while also recognizing some will need help combatting the ignorance persistent among those who believe by birth right and skin color they are better than another and on that merit alone have the right to take advantage of, steal from, and decline men and women who’d like to do it all on their own but find themselves shut out of ever attaining a reasonable goal.

By; Nikesha Leeper