(originally posted on 4/23/09)
Let’s be honest – Carlton from the Fresh Prince was the only black Republican that ever won our hearts. Michael Steele, Clarence Thomas, Don King… There’s something about black Republicans that just gets under black liberals’ skin. Especially now. Show me a black man that didn’t vote for Barack Obama and I’ll show you a million more that are angry with him. But why is it? It can’t be a purely political dislike for conservatives because there are many African Americans that are just as conservative on social issues – particularly those with even loose ties to a religious community. And its certainly not a historical legacy, because Lincoln was Republican and, based on his policy record alone, Nixon was a more progressive president than Bill Clinton.
So why do we assume black Republicans are sellouts that have some element of self hate? And why do we respond so harshly their opinions?
The legacy of slavery in America tells us that if we’re not all together, we’ll never be free and that “them” being “over there” hurts “us” “over here”. Especially when “over there” is considered the big house”of American politics – the part with more economic clout, and, as of late, governing power. And if the Republican party is the house, the Democratic party is the field. Self-preservation tells us that we’ll never get out of the field, while some of us are still in the big house.
There is, of course, some truth to the idea that a group divided is never as strong as a group united…but that is assuming that the group has one common goal. And we don’t. No one does. But political ideologies clearly aren’t our greatest divide in the black community, so our anger is sorely misguided.
Class, educational background, age and generational identification, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, are just a few of the frameworks that have set up cultural divides within the black community. We can’t even agree on the light skin vs. dark skinned issue, let alone a political philosophy.
Black Republicans are not the problem. The key isn’t to persuade, recruit, or attack those on the “opposite side”. Our task is instead to better mobilize the people who do share our goals to win victories for social justice. Period. The problem isn’t the people in the big house – it’s the people in the field not willing to run. If we actually got all the progressives together to exercise their power, we wouldn’t have time to hate on black Republicans. We’d be too busy loving ourselves.