The GOP doesn’t have a problem with black. Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, Allen West, Mia Love, Vernon Parker and many others are respected conservatives of color. The issue is the kind of black that Republicans prefer.
If the party of Lincoln is going to survive, it must learn how to engage black people who aren’t partisan lapdogs. Black apologists, “house Negroes,” “Uncle Toms,” and their ilk went out of style in the black community when the first slaves tasted freedom.
Yes, they have endured into the present, but the resentment and rejection they experience in black circles is real and manifests itself politically and potently. They represent the “kids in the tree house” who stood on the shoulders of others to get “inside.” Ladder- climbers who didn’t build it, but damn sure pulled it up after them in the name of “self-accountability.”
This type of black is a liability for the GOP. They can’t win elections because they have no base. Conservative white voters won’t ever really trust them and black voters won’t forgive those who turn their backs on the community.
West, Love, and Parker are examples of people who have, philosophically, moved “up and out.” Personal wealth or success has nothing to do with the black-on-black animosity they are burdened with. They bare the scars of rejection because they favored the path of individualism over collective advancement. White people have that luxury, black people don’t. As many a civil rights leader or black politico has said: “Not one of us is free until we are all free!”
The GOP’s brand of black doesn’t live by that motto and so they struggle in limbo politically, not wholly accepted and valued by their white patrons and “friends” and run out of mainstream black political life by virtue of their “values” like lepers from the town square.
Republicans face the challenge of rediscovering their pro-civil rights, economic restoration, and integration platform of old. It was Lincoln who promised the 40 acres and a mule, and black folk never forgot it. It was Republicans who fought the racist Democrats of the Reconstruction Era in attempts to authorize the government to give large sums of money to black people for the buying of property, the organizing of banks, and the launching of job and skills training organizations.
The Rev. Frederick Douglas was a real leader in the old GOP. But Douglas, unlike black GOP “leaders” of today, did not spare the feelings of middle-aged white men, he did not pity racist fools, and he did not compromise about the economic and political needs of his people out of fear of white rejection. Douglas was the original GOP evangelical. He believed God was on his side ready to war with those opposed to a movement for black liberation, integration, and equity- building.
Remember Fannie Lou Hammer and the Mississippi Freedom Party and their struggle against the southern Democrat machine that dominated that party then? The Democrat Party of that time is not the same party today that gave rise to President Obama. The Democrat Party and black members spent decades driving out demon imps who did the bidding of the devils of discrimination and racism. The GOP must do the same. No amount of window dressing or black posers can hide the trouble inside the GOP.
Overwhelmingly, blacks are pro-life and straight-marriage Christians.
Where the GOP loses most of us is not over these issues. The GOP loses minorities with its unwillingness to reject the platform of barons of business (many of ill-gotten gain), economic racism, and the “hold them back, hold them down” agenda of white citizens of means who prefer a society of exclusivity and “white privilege” that any person of color with dignity finds completely unacceptable in God’s world.
The conservatives of today must look to the not so distant past for guidance. Even the fathers of black power, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Stokley Carmichael, were not above working with Republicans. Powell even endorsed President Eisenhower, because Eisenhower endorsed black progress in America. Powell and other leaders in Congress and black society struggled against the political ugliness of not-so-Negro- friendly white Democrats of their day to win victories for blacks through impossibly difficult bipartisanship and inter-racial cooperation. If they could do it then, surely we can do it now.
My fear is that Republicans will continue to surround themselves with black patricians. That Republicans will alienate the masses of black plebs who, through great sacrifice, determined long ago what it means to be black in America and what kind of black a person may or may not be. As the saying goes, “They may be our color, but they are not our kind!” Is that too hard for intelligent and clean white people to understand?
Republicans will continue to fail miserably until they stop ignoring certain segments of society out of prejudice and fear. They must find the right kind of black and get themselves back on track or die the long death of political irrelevancy. A confederacy of wannabe Ronald Reagan racists derailed, derided, denounced, disconnected and deserted as the engine of American progress chugs along without the cantankerous and color-free caboose of “modern” conservatism.
— Rev. Jarrett Maupin, Baptist minister and political, civil rights and social justice activist.