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Melissa Harris-Perry: How Obama Can Capture the Spirit of 2008 in 2012

black Republicans

If you watch cable news you will see the same three black men express their pride in being black Republicans. But my question is: “How can these black men or any black person justify being a Republican?” It appears to me that any black person that is a Republican now would have been what Malcolm X referred to as “a House Negro” during slavery. Can it be that by separating themselves from the masses they think they have nothing in common with the masses? Any black person who thinks they have been accepted by and welcomed into the Republican Party needs to take a few days to sober up. These black Republicans will say this is America and they have the right to choose which party they want to belong to and that’s true; but it amazes me that a black person would want to be in the same party as Jesse Helms, David Duke, Strom Thurman, Dick Cheney, Trent Lott and Ronald Reagan.

Trent Lott has spent years as one of the leaders of the Republican Party and these black Republicans don’t have a problem with that. In 2002, Trent Lott’s contemporaries and his fellow Republicans said they were shocked that he had uttered racial statements to support segregation. For some reason they didn’t notice that he had made these kinds of statements before. Nor had they noticed his voting record, which clearly shows he voted against affirmative action, the Voting Rights Act, the extension of the Voting Rights Act, School busing and desegregation, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and all other legislation directed toward equality. Since Trent Lott’s support for Strom Thurman’s failed bid to be president was not his first show of support, why didn’t the people that had a problem with it in 2002 have a problem with it before?

All of a sudden people were shocked by his words, but what about his actions? Not only did he vote against the legislation I’ve mentioned, he also spearheaded an effort to restore United States citizenship to Confederate President Jeff Davis, who was a traitor to this country. He also filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Bob Jones University deserved tax breaks, declared that the spirit of Jeff Davis lives on in the 1984 Republican Platform, called the Civil War “the war of Northern aggression”, said the Council of Conservative Citizens stands for the right principles and, not once but twice, said, “We wouldn’t have all these problems” if Storm Thurman had become president in 1948.

All this went unnoticed, and there are black people who are part of a party that, for a second time, made him one their party’s leaders.

I have heard “black Republicans” refer to Ronald Reagan as if he was and/or is some kind of Republican saint. This reminds me of Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grass Roots” speech when he said, “that during slavery there were two kinds of slaves. There was the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negro lived in the house with his master and he loved his master more than he loved himself and when the master’s house caught on fire, the house Negro fought harder to put the fire out than the master did.”

These same black Republicans talk about Ronald Reagan as if he were a saint, so let’s look at what Reagan did and didn’t do.

Reagan’s first stop, in his general election campaign, was Neshoba County, Mississippi, which is the place where civil rights activist were shot to death by whites who were outraged by the idea of people working towards securing the rights of blacks, and at the time, this case was still news. When Reagan used the term “state’s rights” he was simply using the same old race card that other racists still use. He was against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and tried to lessen its impact in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was against a national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., and when it came to private schools that practiced racial discrimination, he tried to eliminate the federal ban on tax exemptions for those schools. In 1988 he vetoed a bill to expand federal civil rights legislation and he also vetoed the bill assessing sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Both of those vetoes were over-ridden by Congress. Throughout his political career, he joined the racist position regarding civil rights and other issues important to people of color. How a black person can justify following these guys lead truly amazes me.

And along comes Michael Steele, who was the chair of the Republican National Committee. If Mr. Steele thought he was anything more than a puppet, he needs to lay off whatever it is he’s smoking. How could he possibly think the Republican Party would follow the lead of a black man? He wasn’t in office sixty days before there was talk within the Republican Party of his being removed from office. Within twenty-four hours after speaking his mind about an out-of-control radio talk show host, he begged for the host’s forgiveness. He won’t beg for the forgiveness of a black president for the things he has said about him, but he will beg for the forgiveness of a white talk show host, who I believe is a racist, for the things he has said about him.

According to what I’ve seen on television, in the beginning, the Tea Party demonstrations were attended by whites only, and when this was brought to the attention of the American people the Tea Partyers went out and found a couple Richard Steele imitators to join the party. When Mr. Steele asked to be one of the guest speakers at one of those demonstrations, he was told “No.” It seems to me he should not have had to ask, they should have asked him. Every time I see Mr. Steele I can’t help but think of the house Negroes, during slavery, who told the plantation owner "the Field Negros are planning an escape."

Malcolm was right.

Kenneth Brown

College Park, GA

Jun 24 2011 - 1:22pm