Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The Challenges That Lies Ahead by Akindele Akinyemi
Presently, I am reading this document entitled, "RNC MINORITY OUTREACH:
SAY ONE THING, DO ANOTHER." After reading the document I simply said to myself people still have work to do.
To me, the document, written by the Democratic National Committee, speaks in volumes. Some may write it off as a way to divide the party but if you actually read the content of the message one can only wonder why the RNC keeps going over this minority outreach thing and blacks still vote 90% Democrat.
I do not think the issue with Black Republicans being elected or even being respected in local and national communities is an issue. That is not the problem. The issue is connecting a message with your constituents.
If you take a look at the present day National Republican Party it's broken up into three distinct factions.
1. The Social Conservatives. These are the people who are mostly Christian and exercise their Christian values in politics.
2. The Libertarians. This is another group who stresses limited government (some stress NO government at all), adhere to the Constitution of the United States and have a disdain for social conservatives.
3. The Fiscal Conservatives. This group pushes for fiscal policies that advocates a reduction in overall government spending. They believe in free trade, deregulation of the economy, lower taxes. Most of this group are strong followers of former President Ronald Reagan through his "Reaganomics" platform.
Then you have those paleoconservatives who have left the Republican Party and are now part of the Constitution Party. This party is deeply rooted in Christian nationalism and have a splinter group called the American Independent Party.
When you look at the present day plight of Black Republicans where do they fall under? While the three groups have an identification and can expound on their platform politically Black Republicans today do not have a clear platform. That alone is a serious core problem. Present day Black Republicans discuss patriotism, independence and cultural conservatism that is connected to the Black church.
However, the last 40 years in the United States Black people in our country have voted Democratic. So what is really going on here?
The way I see this is the lack of REAL identity with our Black Republicans. There is no real contrast between Black Republicans and the three groups I just mentioned. Black Republicans actually fall in one of the three groups. Which can be a good thing our bad thing depending on where you live.
Most Black Republicans who I know personally often tell me that they cannot gain real ground in the Black community because so many blacks are Democrats or liberals. I then ask what message are they telling black people in the urban areas. They tell me that they talk to blacks about limited government, free enterprise and tax cuts.
That's the main problem. The message and not understanding your audience. No one understands this message in certain parts of Detroit or Pontiac. So you have lost your potential voter.
Again, Black Republicans have to begin to create an identity that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. The most basic fundamental issue here is crafting a message that is going to make sense. Too many of our young Black Republicans I have noticed are using terms from people like Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. Rarely, I ever hear anyone discuss the efforts of Booker T. Washington, Ida. B Wells or Marcus Garvey. The reason for this is because most have never been exposed to real African and African American History as it pertains to Black Republicans and blacks in general. It's one thing to master American History but its another to fully understand your past to move into the future.
On the flip side of things most Black Republicans STILL dwell on the past and what Black Republicans did for blacks. This level of history is important but it cannot be used to craft public policy and solutions in 2009. It also does not show how this history is relevant to other blacks across the Diaspora in 2009 when it pertains to global trade and development in cities like Muskegon, Detroit and New York. Black Republicans have to stay current not dwell in the past.
We also need to do our homework and stop mimicking others when they talk about the war on poverty. Yes, we know that Lyndon Johnson created the welfare state but what is never discussed from any Black Republican (or Republican in general) is how the Vietnam War created division in black families nationally. There are never any discussions on how black men came home, affected with Agent Orange, only to come home to poverty and eventually drug use or selling drugs because they could not find a job. Some committed suicide after fighting for their country. There are more to the destruction of the black family than playing politics. Black Republicans must be able to articulate these issues in a honest and truthful manner.
One thing that bothers me is how we have become silent on the education issue. Black Republicans cannot get caught up on being loyal to the Republican Party when we have some Republicans who support teacher unions. Education is an issue that needs repairing in all urban school districts across the country. Some have taken the argument of using school vouchers. That's nice, however, how do you translate that into educational policy? Even though I support vouchers is it an issue right now in Detroit? How many libertarians have submitted signatures to get vouchers on the 2010 ballot? We are seeking REAL educational reform not talking points. Black Republicans should be right on top of this issue along with charter schools.
How many Black Republicans have designed educational or non-partisan think tanks to improve education as well as working with elected officials to make this a reality? What's our position of Mayoral controlled public school districts? These are discussions we need to be taking leadership on in our organizations. Stay away from extreme discussions on education that will not make sense.
It's easy for Black Republicans to call President Obama names day in and day out but it makes our case even harder when its time to go into the black community and expound on our message. Our excuse is black people are so brainwashed that they will not listen to us. They should not listen to us because we are parroting a platform that simply does not talk to our people. That's just the truth.
A quick history lesson here. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 the entire country mourned his death. The leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, told the NOI not to come out and make a comment about JFK because not only people loved him but it would bring serious repercussions on the NOI in general. In other words, they would be looked upon as lunatics and anti-American. Who made the statement about the "chickens have come home to roost?" Minister Malcolm X. He made this statement because of the United States involvement with world affairs and the CIA murder of Patrice Lumuba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1961.
Malcolm X was silenced for 90 days and excommunicated. We know what happened next.
Today, we face a similar situation. Blacks (and Americans in general) love President Barack Obama regardless of what people think of his policies. Regardless of what his approval rating is nationally 1 out of 3 Americans prefer Obama over Bush (or ANY Republican) to be President. So when Black Republicans go on this "temper tantrum" of character assassinating the President and has not even crafted an urban agenda that will be an alternative to what President Obama is proposing to urban communities then we make ourselves look bad. Does that mean we should not critique the President? Absolutely not, we should but be ready to have an answer that do not fall in one of the three categories above. That means we need to study and analyze information to create a platform that makes sense. We cannot allow room for distractions at this point. To continue character assassinating the President will not only make our job harder but people will not take Black Republicans seriously. Making excuses for why our community is in the situation its in will simply not work. SOLUTIONS not WHINING win results.
A full blown libertarian message will not work in our community no matter how many libertarians tell you it will. Neither will a full blown social conservative message. What I have learned through my personal experiences is talking to people about crime, lack of quick police response time, failing schools, and even discussing health care and mass transit are issues that people want to discuss and want serious solutions. I also tell residents that government is not supposed to babysit you. You have to get up off your ass and make a living.
Black people are seeking solutions not bashing. Black Republicans should discuss high speed rail, green jobs, social entrepreneurship through micro financing, and most importantly defusing the war on poverty by showing compassion by both helping and educating the poor so they can pull themselves out of poverty. Again, K-16 education should be our TOP priority. Period.
Do not be afraid to connect with other Africans from across the globe. This puzzles the hell out of me. Studies how that 19.4 percent of all adult African immigrants in the United States held a graduate degree, compared to 8.1 percent of adult white Americans and 3.8 percent of adult black Americans in the United States, respectively. Of the African-born population in the United States, age 25 and older, 86.4% reported having a high school diploma or higher, compared with 78. 9% of Asian born immigrants and 76.5% of European born immigrants.
African immigrants to the United States are the largest immigrant group that has the lowest percentage of people not fluent in English. This is likely due to the fact that English is one of the most spoken languages in Africa.
The goals of Africans vary tremendously. While some look to create new lives in the U.S., some plan on using the resources and skills gained to go back and help their countries of origin. Either way, African communities contribute billions to the economies of Africa through remittances.
My point is while Black Republicans are trying to seek alliances with everyone else how come there has not been any mass push to connect with Africans or people of Caribbean descent? This is strange to me. I can see why most Africans in this country vote Democrat (except the ones in places like Texas). They simply adopt to their environment. How can we continue to ignore people in this country from across the Diaspora?
I recently interviewed two couples who were Black Republicans from the South about two months ago. One couple were in their last 80s and another were in their mid-70s. Both couples admitted to me that Black Republicans today are lost. They are not the Black Republicans of Frederick Douglass or even Booker T.Washington. These were pioneers in their craft. But the next thing they told me was interesting.
They wanted to know why so many Black Republicans have become so individualistic in their approach and thinking when it came to the black community. They explained to me how traditionally, blacks in the community were more community-oriented than individualistic. They told me that was a trait of the old Southern Democrats who fought against civil rights, voting rights for blacks, and high taxation. They said that Black Republicans of the 20th century would have never participated in "tea parties" but would have fought for quality education, fought against racism, helped improved as well as helped sustained the quality of life. Most of the Civil Rights workers were Black Republicans. They told that there have always been intellectual differences between blacks (they used W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington for example and DuBois and Garvey) but not at the level we are witnessing.
To add on to what they are saying many have forgotten that the NAACP was OUR organization upon its inception in 1909. Same with the National Urban League in 1911. Black Greek Organizations as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities. All of what I just named here can STILL be relevant to Black Republicans IF we have a CURRENT message that resonates with people. The conservative foundation does not have to change. The strategies MUST adapt to the times if we are to be taken seriously. To abandon OUR own traditional foundations that we started in the early 20th century and then want to earn respect is absurd.
Again, do not make excuses on how the liberals have taken over higher education. How many of us are creating the balance in education to begin with? You cannot complain about higher education if you are not in the mix yourself on any level.
Another issue that the elders brought up is the fact that Black Republicans today are very anti-government. They think it is very foreign to them because blacks have always had a relationship with government dating back to the end of the Civil War. The elders challenged me to take a look at how government helped free blacks with the 13th, 14th and 15th amendment. They could not fully understand how the very same government that helped us become free are now the enemy. They concluded by saying instead of protesting government you need to lobby for better solutions and run on a platform that makes sense.
The point of them saying this is that Black Republicans lack an identity that people can respect. We follow more than we lead. If we bash anyone that is a Black Democrat then we get a pat on the back. If we work with Black Democrats to create legislation that will help fight against child poverty then we have sold the "party" out. It's these types of divisions that will kill our community while the conservatives in the suburbs flourish and continue to prosper.
Therefore, Black Republicans cannot wait for the RNC to developed a clear approach to attract the Black vote. Even with Michael Steele and Angela Sailor in charge that is not going to happen. It will take grassroots Black Republicans, who are not afraid to disagree with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck or even our libertarian brothers and sisters, to move an agenda forward. Who said Black Republicans had to follow? Just lead for once. Have others support our causes.
It's the responsibility of those who are passionate to first study their history, their culture, and fully understand the plight of the black experience in the United States. We have to begin to think for ourselves, talk about the issues that are relevant to everyday people in our community and engaging and debating in policy solutions that will help forge a new reality for urban communities globally. Then we will be in a position to win elections, gain respect and connect with others who have been afraid for so long to speak out. Most Black Republicans are afraid to speak out in fear of those white conservatives who may call them names and try to break their spirit the same way they tried to break Colin Powell and Michael Steele. At some point you have to step out on faith and let go and let God guide you to what makes you feel passionate.
To my young Black Republicans I urge you to travel, study how other people are living globally, watch international channels such as the Travel Channel, BBC, Africa Channel and others that will be a window to the world. Read books that will stimulate your intellect. Don't just read Michael Medved, Glenn Beck or Larry Elder. Study the works of Dr. Dambisa Moyo, who has an international perspective on things. Stay away from conspiracy theories because it leads to confusion.
When you disagree with ANY elected official present your policy statement and explain intelligently why I disagree or AGREE with the official. Learn to be civil in discussions. Do not be anti-intellectual or no one will pay attention to you or your platform. Learn to be engaged in race relation dialogues in your community and in both Democratic and Republican Parties. If you choose to be active in the Republican Party as an officer do not let your urban agenda be buried under the talking points of the party. An urban agenda is just as important as lowering taxes or supporting a national defense for our country.
Discuss the importance of regional cooperation and link in with organizations that is about bridging our region together. If you live in an urban community like me get to know all of your state representatives and state senators. In fact, get to know all of your elected officials, read up on them, their background and who they are connected to. Research their bills and what they have introduced legislatively. You should do the same with local, county and federal lawmakers. Study the City Charter of your city, county charter (if you have one) and both the State and Federal Constitution so you can be familiar with the laws. Black Republicans have to think higher and be consistent with messages if they want to attract black people into the circle. There is no room to be anti-intellectual in this day and time with so much information available through the Internet to help our community.
Instead of walking in the door pissed off at them because they are a Democrat listen to what they are saying FIRST. You might agree on what is being said in the room. Then present your point in a way that will bring the both of you together. Always be the solution maker not the problem creator.
Help and encourage young people to do community service. There is nothing wrong with it. Community service can help students graduate. This can include working in a soup kitchen or mentoring young black men who were released from jail. We do not need the government helping us with this when there are numerous non-profit agencies who are already doing this.
Address how HIV/AIDS is killing our community. Even some of the most conservative black churches I have visited will not address this issue. They are quick to address abortion but not HIV/AIDS. Both are a cycle of death why not address both of them and come up with ways of prevention?
Address the issue of broken marriages in our community. Find out why young people are practicing same sex relationships. Black Republicans, like urban conservatives, must be serious about solutions instead of using social conservative talking points.
Lastly, stop getting involved in things that are just counterproductive. Black Republicans were traditionally freedom fighters, has helped set the course of the country coming out of the Civil War, supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities, kept our neighborhoods intact and loved their country, culture, education and history. Many still do but are caught up on anti-intellectual things that is dumbing down America instead of building it up.
The Republican Party was stared in 1854 as an anti-slavery group for blacks. This party was founded to help blacks but has been hijacked by anti-intellectuals who is bathing in fear and paranoia. Today, Black Republicans must take the lead once again IN THIS PARTY, without fear and intimidation, to set this party back on course to make it relevant not just to all Americans but globally. If that means becoming State Chair of the GOP, Congressional or County chairs, vice-chairs, urban outreach directors, etc, so be it but do it in a manner that will bring about change.
If Black Republicans can simply engage our community, redefine ourselves nationally, and reach out to those who want to support our cause I guarantee you we can win elections locally, county, state and nationally. There is no one stopping us from sending Black Republicans to Congress except us.