It has become a norm in the Black community to vote democrat, even if we don’t know exactly who the candidate is. This is a major issue because members of the Democratic Party don’t always implement policies that benefit the Black community. Voting for democrats blindly is very harmful to the democratic process. Nevertheless, the allegiance to the democrats continues. I have never professed to be a member of either party, however I recognize that I definitely have a preference for Democrats over Republicans as well.
Indeed this is a complex issue because the Black community is complex and not monolithic. However, upon a scan of Black community members, many would appear to side with Republicans on certain “conservative” issues. Still there is a major disconnect between the Republican Party and African American voters. As I watched Allen West’s interesting Black Republican panel on C-SPAN, an issue was raised by one of the attendees. How do they get more Black voters to understand and join the Republican party? This same concern was raised recently on BlackRepublicans.blogspot.com a blog ran by Frances Rice, a co-founder of the National Black Republican Association. Rice asks, “But how do we win 25% of the black vote?”
Well, the problem lies in a horrible public relations track record on the part of the Republican Party when dealing with Black voters over the last few decades.
1. In the name of conservatism, many proposed policies promote individualistic approaches to education and economic growth. Consequently, unions, affirmative action and government assistance can be perceived as unnecessary handouts and are constantly under the strain of possible cuts by Republican politicians. This causes historically disadvantaged communities to continue existing as last on the totem pole with stifled opportunities for upward mobility. However, as many Black republicans point out, self-determination and perseverance play important roles as well. And I think for the most part, many would agree with the self-determination aspect of this argument. However, in a modern world, built and based on historic inequalities and disenfranchisement, sometimes self-determination is not enough to secure equal pay, equal rights and equal access to the pursuit of happiness. Until the Republican Party takes steps towards recognizing this, it is going to have a hard time amongst Black communities.
2. The Republican Party may have been the party of Frederick Douglas, but in 2012 the party is certainly hell bent on reasserting the good ole days. Barack Obama stated in his recent State of the Union speech, ” I won’t go back! I won’t go back!” I was immediately reminded of the reoccurring statement amongst Republicans and Tea party members, ” Let’s take our country back!” or “returning to the days of the patriots”. These statements always threw me off. Where are we taking America “back” to? These moments of patriotic nostalgia conjure up frightening images for many African Americans. For many of us “going back” carries negative imagery tied to racially intrinsic historic pains. Are going back to the days when Black was synonymous with “the help”? Newt Gingrich’s recent comment about having children serve as janitors only makes matter worse. Are going back to the days when we knew “our place”? Are we going back to the days when American was synonymous with White Anglo Saxon, Protestant, Heterosexual? Indeed, this rhetoric is off putting along with the disturbing imagery, which often accompanies it.
Juan Williams tried to get Newt Gingrich to answer for his racial/hate mongering statements and Williams was bombarded by heinous heckles during the South Carolina debate. Though Williams’, questions were valid and necessary, his Republican counterparts refused to acknowledge it.
Also, let us not forget presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s Black people or “Blah” people statement. “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn money, ” said Santorum. He later changed his tune and insisted that he said the word “Blah” instead of “Black”. This is a sad cause of nonsensical denial mixed with a blatant disregard for any ounce of respect towards African Americans. And yet, where was the outcry from well-known Black republicans?
Furthermore, the Obama is a “Black Monkey”, “Muslim, Communist”, “Welfare President” rhetoric & imagery has gone on long enough. Ever since Obama was elected president, there have been town-hall meetings with derogatory pictures of Obama positioned with a turban on his head and a bone through his nose, saying “go back to Africa”.
Even though much of this rhetoric may not come from Black Republicans, their association with the Republican Party makes matters worse when trying to connect with members of the Black community. Especially when they are trying to convince members of the Black community to join them.
If Black Republicans want more members of the Black community to learn about the benefits of their party, they are going to have to do a better job of openly and admittedly holding their party accountable for racially divisive and hatefully charged rhetoric. If they could somehow, get their party to see how off-putting this rhetoric is to potential members, huge strides could be made. However, at the moment, their counterparts appear to be having a good ole’ time basking in the warmth of racially charged rhetoric and hate mongering in order to secure votes among the waning population of America that still awaits the return of Mammy. And it is for this reason that many members of the Black community can not relate to the Republican Party. Thus, Black Republicans take notice. However, good your intentions maybe, the antics of your counterparts and your refusal combat them have ruined your opportunity to connect with the majority of the Black community.
Jessica Ann Mitchell
Jessica Ann Mitchell has a M.S. in Public Relations and a M.A. in Pan-African Studies. Mitchell specializes in multicultural outreach and communications. She also writes on her personal blog at OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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