The Republicans are talking a good game about the need to diversify their Party with the Black and Brown faces who overwhelming supported President Barack Obama in November. But, if past GOP attempts at diversity are any indicator, their attempts will be perceived as nothing more than something I call “diversity in Blackface.”
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Somehow, the GOP reasons that as long as they prop up a person of color as a “rising star,” they will gain credibility with minority voters. That their Blackface candidate vehemently opposes most policies that minority voters care about and insults President Obama is oblivious to them. While the term “Blackface” is inflammatory and insulting, I believe many minorities are equally put off by politicians who share their skin tone, yet sound as racially divisive—or indifferent—as some of their fellow White, male Party members.
The most recent examples are Allen West and Herman Cain, both of whom seemingly revel at the chance to antagonize Black Democratic voters.
During an interview on the “The O’Reilly Factor” last year, West referred to himself as a modern-day Harriet Tubman who is leading Black voters — whom he characterized as slaves — from the Democrat’s plantation. He also referred to California Congresswoman Maxine Waters as a “plantation boss.”
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Then we have Herman “Uzbecki-becki-becki-stan” Cain who told CNN that Black voters “have been brainwashed in to not being open-minded” during his run for the White House. He also opined on President Obama’s “Blackness” during a radio interview in October of 2010.
Both men are Tea Party darlings and, at one point, were serious players in national GOP politics. Most Black voters, however, view them as nothing more than two dim-witted Black men who embarrassed themselves and the Black race with their buffoonish commentary on serious issues that make Blacks and other minorities question their Blackness.
Before lambasting my use of “Blackface” in reference to Cain or West, ask yourself if either man reminds you of Newt “Food Stamp President” Gingrich or Ann “Our blacks are better than their blacks” Coulter, then get back to me.
Then we have Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. While Jindal, a Rhodes Scholar and highly accomplished public servant, is certainly not as ignorant as West or Cain, to be a “Blackface candidate,” one simply has to assume the minority voters he or she purportedly wants to attract are ignorant.
For example, Jindal has recently spoken in favor of immigration reform, after realizing that his Party will need the Latino vote in the future. But in the past, he has also spoken out against granting services to illegal immigrants, such as in-state tuition and healthcare. (Maryland, via popular vote, has approved in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.) Jindal also opposes Obamacare — legislation that most Black and Latino voters support.
If he eventually runs for president in 2016, will Jindal change his mind on the aforementioned subjects? Or will he pretend minorities don’t know his record on these issues? Will he speak out against the “gifts” rhetoric in 2016 as he did several weeks ago? Or will he cave in to the loud mouths of his party as did one-time GOP chairman Michael Steele when given the chance to tell the Rush Limbaughs of the world to take a hike?
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sounds good too — at least for now.
It is one thing for Rubio to speak out against elements of his Party over immigration when the election season is over. It will be another to see him, as a presidential candidate, tell the conservative billionaires with millions to spend that it is not OK to threaten your employees to vote GOP or else. It remains to be seen if either man’s backbone will stand up to the most racially divisive — not to mention, deep-pocketed — elements of their Party.
Minorities want to hear about the GOP’s stance on Voter ID laws, economic inequality, Obamacare, and abortion rights — all of which have very specific policy ramifications for Black and Latino voters. Future Republican candidates, be they Congressional candidates or White House hopefuls, who do not provide reasonable policy approaches to the aforementioned issues will be viewed as Blackface candidates.
(Blackface diversity efforts also include mentioning that Blacks oppose gay marriage and are conservative because they attend church. What is lost on the GOP, though, is that minority voters know the difference between their religious convictions and whether a candidate shares their views on public policy. And while Black women — or most women for that matter — may have religious objections to abortion, they do not want a government full of White men — or Blackface candidates they appoint — making that choice for them.)
Another issue with Blackface candidates is that none of them have shown a propensity to speak in a personal language that resonates with the challenges of being a minority in America. In fact, some of them speak as if A) they are uncomfortable discussing race to begin with B) discrimination can be solved with hard work and without serious legislation and civil rights enforcement C) talking about inequality is a bad thing rather than an opportunity to debate on what policies can best fight it D) they only speak in racial language that is comfortable with White people.
For most minorities, such candidates will be clearly viewed as entertaining White people’s belief that they are trying to be diverse without actually creating policy that fosters justice-based legislation.
“Diversity in Blackface” may sound offensive and a bit like an oxymoron, given my proposed argument when referring to the GOP’s efforts to diversify their party; however, if the GOP tries to appeal to ethnically diverse voters without offering them any serious alternatives on issues they truly care about, minorities will continue to be equally offended by their dearth of authenticity.”
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