WHILE EVEN many in the Republican Party acknowledge they must do some serious minority outreach after African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians lined up to deliver a solid victory for President Obama in November, I can’t help but wonder how effective this latest attempt will be when so many people would prefer to dodge the frank conversations that are sure to arise.
You know what I mean: conversations about race, affirmative action, immigration and other touchy subjects that many people seem unwilling or unable to have in a civil, honest manner aimed at establishing common ground.
I was reminded of the many minefields that accompany the mixture of politics and race last week when I wrote a column about U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction, in which I noted that he has a great story to tell — one that just might help draw new folks to the Republican Party — and that he didn’t come across as the devil, which is the way most black Republicans are perceived by many African-Americans. Some readers — black and white, Republican and Democrat — didn’t agree with some of my comments and let me know it.
Some particularly didn’t like my references to the long-strained relationship between African-Americans and the GOP. With there being such a strong strand of conservatism among many African-Americans, particularly on issues such as abortion, homosexuality and religion, you’d think the GOP would be able to make more headway than it has. But its history with black Americans, its heated rhetoric, the way it has marketed itself as the white man’s party and its relationship with extremist, racist elements have repelled most African-Americans.
One letter writer found the column to be “biased and highly offensive” and said “the overall tone and meaning of the comments are a slur against Republicans in general.”
Of course, it’s no secret that Republicans and African-Americans have long had a strained relationship; and there’s no bridging that gap if we can’t have frank conversations, even those that irk us or make us feel uncomfortable.
So, in the spirit of frankness, here’s a sampling of some of the email responses I received:
• “I read your article and frankly, am quite disappointed in your continued referencing of ‘the old days.’ Personally, I will support Sen. Scott should he run for office in the next election. I do so not because he is a ‘novelty,’ or because he is a Republican, I do so because I agree with his viewpoint on life. He worked hard for what he has accomplished.
“When Gov. Haley appointed him to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Jim DeMint, I was delighted. I had no idea he was the first ‘black man’ since reconstruction to hold a seat in the Senate; I DID NOT CARE!!! To me, I have always seen him as another man who is an entrepreneur who decided to make a career in politics.”
• “1. I didn’t celebrate his ‘historic’ appointment because when asked about it in the local media, he said his ethnicity wasn’t important. 2. He does have horns — he just doesn’t wear them all the time. He keeps them in his pocket, pulls them out and puts them on when it’s time to vote!”
“On a political level, he has a solid track record of pandering to the right wing — from his time on County Council to his time in the SC House to his time in Washington. Perhaps the question that deserves another editorial is what black Republicans have in common. … I have yet to meet any black Republicans who don’t have an eye on how their involvement will aid in their business development. When I meet a black Republican who’s a janitor, I’ll change my mind about black Republicans and their motivation.”
• “Seems the left has a lot of misconceptions about black Republicans.”
“Who started the KKK and why? Who put the Confederate flag on the Capitol? George Wallace was what party? Lester Maddox was what party? Bull Connor was what party? Who followed MLK and investigated him for Communist connections? Who destroyed the black family? Who has created massive Black dependency and 70% illegitimacy birth rate? The left or the right looks at race first rather than the person? Who says Blacks need special consideration for entrance into schools and other programs? Why is the Black on Black crime rate so high? Who counted Blacks as (three fifths of) a person and why?”
“Only Dimocrats (sic) are racist. They have used the Black people for 50 years … . Think about that.”
• “Mr. Scott is a study in political conflicts. He talks about his upbringing and at the same time condemns other Blacks for similar behavior, be it academic, social or political. He is full of that old TEA PARTY rhetoric!!”
“Nikki Haley did not do Tim Scott a favor by appointing him to the senator position. She actually ended his political career as an elected official. Tim Scott cannot win a statewide election. Not enough whites will vote for him to be elected. I’d be surprised if he gets out of the Republican primaries. He has no chance of being elected to his old House of Representatives seat. Tim Scott is a “Two and Done” politician; especially if Mark Sanford is elected to his old seat.”
“It is time for us, as Blacks, to also get away from supporting politicians, appointed officials and others because they are Black.”
As you can see, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we’ve got some things to talk about. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
But is it possible to do so in a non-poisonous, productive manner? Maybe. Maybe not.
Reach Mr. Bolton at (803) 771-8631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.